After collecting the Bitterroot, Blackfoot, and Flathead rivers, the Lower Clark Fork becomes deep and wide as it flows toward its terminus in Lake Pend Oreille. Here, creeks cascade through lush forests, providing critical habitat for the threatened native bull trout, Montana’s state fish. Unfortunately, proposed mines threaten to discharge polluted wastewater into the river–forever.
After its confluence with the Flathead River, the Clark Fork nearly doubles in volume. Fish, birds and wildlife abound along this expansive, sparsely populated stretch of river, which supports ancient cedar-hemlock forests in one of Montana’s wettest regions. You can still find threatened bull trout in the tributaries to the Lower Clark Fork, and much of the subbasin is listed as critical habitat for this iconic native trout. Results: The Coalition has spent decades protecting this watershed from potentially devastating impacts of proposed copper/silver mines that would tunnel beneath the wilderness.
Rock Creek and Montanore Mines: The proposed Rock Creek Mine would tunnel three miles beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness from the south while the proposed Montanore Mine would tunnel below from their north side. Both mines have the potential to dewater wilderness lakes and critical streams, and–in the case of Rock Creek Mine–to release contaminated wastewater into the Clark Fork River in perpetuity. CFC has been tracking and challenging these mine proposals for decades, winning lawsuits that require the companies to take more careful measures to protect our watershed. Read more here about the proposed Rock Creek and Montanore mines.
Education on Stream-Smart Living: Like the Flathead basin, aquatic invasive species are a looming threat to the still waters in the Lower Clark Fork. We’ve worked with partners to eradicate Eurasian watermilfoil from Noxon Reservoir, and continue to educate residents and visitors on the importance of cleaning all boats and gear after enjoying the water. In addition, we worked with the Green Mountain Conservation District to teach “Living Near Water” continuing education curriculum to real estate professionals and waterside landowners.
Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group; Lolo National Forest; Rock Creek Alliance; Green Mountain Conservation District; Sanders County; Trout Unlimited; Montana Department of Environmental Quality; Avista; Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.