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A fisherman works the Bitterroot River in October of 2018 near Maclay's Bridge west of Missoula.

A local bank has partnered with a nonprofit to help improve the health of three different watersheds that are part of the Missoula Valley ecosystem.

Stockman Bank, which has several locations in Missoula, has donated a total of $22,000 to Montana Trout Unlimited to help the Bitterroot, the Blackfoot and the Clark Fork rivers.

Stockman donated $4,500 to help with riparian restoration on the Bitterroot. David Brooks, the executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited, said the money will go toward a $70,000 project that will reconnect and restore one of the most important native fisheries in the Bitteroot Valley.

"Bull trout are a federally-listed, threatened species that inhabit many critical Bitterroot tributaries,” Brooks said. “In 2017, Trout Unlimited completed an inventory and prioritization of irrigation diversions in the Bitterroot’s core bull trout streams. The outcome of this work was a list of projects on private land with high potential to improve the bull trout fishery. Stockman Bank’s contribution is supporting one of the highest priority projects.”

Brooks noted that Stockman Banks’ first donation to coldwater conservation was a $10,000 gift to remove the dam in Rattlesnake Creek, a key tributary to the Clark Fork River. They then donated $7,500 to help restore Nevada Creek, a tributary to the Blackfoot River.

“As a true community bank, we support efforts that make Montana the best place to live, and healthy rivers are an important draw for recreationists of all stripes,” said Bob Burns, Missoula market president at Stockman Bank.

Last year, Stockman Bank completed a new, six-story downtown headquarters in Missoula that is one of the most environmentally-friendly buildings in Montana, with a graywater recycling system, solar panels and a LEED V4 Platinum certification, the first of its kind in the state.

“We are very grateful to Stockman Bank for investing in not just one, but three important projects in different watersheds,” Brooks said. “Their commitment is helping not just the wild and native trout, but also Montanans and visitors who go to the rivers to fish, hike, boat and even lift their spirits. We hear over and over at MTU that people rely on our rivers for all kinds of reasons, and we are working hard to make sure that these treasures are clean and cold.”

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