New Missoula collaborative to discuss Clark Fork, Bitterroot, Blackfoot river needs

The Clark Fork River winds though the old Milltown Dam site east of Missoula. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

A new Missoula community group that is working together on issues and opportunities related to local rivers will host a public open house next week in downtown Missoula. It’s focus? Everything to do with rivers.

Three Rivers Collaborative includes local businesses and nonprofits, along with city, county and state agencies, who all came together over the past year to create a common place to discuss the Clark Fork and lower portions of the Blackfoot and Bitterroot Rivers in the Missoula Valley.

“The Missoula community has strong connections to our rivers and what they offer,” said Morgan Valliant, Three Rivers Collaborative member and Conservation Lands Manager for the city of Missoula. “We wanted to create a central place for people to work together on river-related issues and ideas.”

The Collaborative formed to create that common space and now wants to engage more people and groups in discussing river conservation, public access, and recreation in the Missoula area.

“There are a lot of people and organizations that have a role and interest in this discussion, and if we can bring all that together, we can create more benefits for the river and the community,” said Randy Arnold, collaborative member and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 2 Supervisor.

Pelah Hoyt, fellow collaborative member and the lands director for Five Valleys Land Trust, said community interest is high.

Participants from early discussions have included Five Valleys, Clark Fork Coalition, local business owners, river guides, Trout Unlimited, Mountain Line Transportation, Missoula County and the city, along with the University of Montana, American Rivers and the Audubon Society.

“The open house is a chance to celebrate the tremendous river resources that we have, share why this group came together and what our initial goals are, and invite community members to get involved on river issues that matter to them,” Hoyt said.

The open house is set for Feb. 21 from 5:30-7:30 at Conflux Brewing with a short presentation from group members and Mayor John Engen, Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick and Rachel VandeVoort, the director of the Montana Governor’s Office on Outdoor Recreation.

The event will be followed with light appetizers and a chance to visit with hosts and attendees. Participants will have an opportunity to learn about river use trends in the Missoula area, current river projects and how to participate in future meetings and discussions.