We live in a very special place.

The health of our river systems is a clear reflection of the collective values we hold as a community. Yet, while Montana has some of the last, best free-flowing and clean rivers and streams in the country, few are protected. Out of Montana’s 170,000 rivers miles, only 368 miles are designated as Wild & Scenic. That means less than one quarter of 1 percent hold any type of protection that maintains our rivers free-flow and water quality.

Is this how we show our appreciation for what nature has provided us?

I am excited to see that U.S. Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., has recently introduced a Wild and Scenic Rivers bill to protect the free-flowing status and remarkable values of the East Rosebud Creek, which flows off the Beartooth Plateau. That is spectacular country that is quite worthy of a Wild & Scenic designation. Whitewater opportunities are top-notch and the landscape is quintessential rural Montana in all its glory.

As a whitewater river professional who’s traveled around the globe over the last decade to visit famed rivers in some of the planet’s most remote areas, I know there’s few places that compare in terms of access, raw beauty and abundance of life. As a long-time river runner, I’ve experienced first-hand the vitality and sustenance that these waterways provide when their natural processes are preserved and protected.

Now, more than ever, we need to turn our appreciation in to action and prevent future degradation of our critical river ecosystems. I encourage others to support the Wild & Scenic designation of the East Rosebud and, while we’re at it, let’s broaden the discussion to include other iconic rivers and creeks across Montana – the Gallatin, Upper Yellowstone and Rock Creek – that also deserve permanent protection.

Shawn Robertson, Missoula

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