Cooperatove Conservation Project

Blackfoot Challenge

Location: Midwest/Northern High Plains Region: Montana

Project Summary: A diverse array of partners coalesced around watershed-wide, citizen-based efforts to protect a river famous for its scenic and recreational values.
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Citizens learn about the Blackfoot River watershed. (Photo Courtesy Blackfoot Challenge)
Resource Challenge
Montana’s Blackfoot River, made famous by the 1992 movie, A River Runs Through It, has become one of the State’s most popular sites for fishing, rafting and other activities. Its notoriety and its proximity to the fastest-growing region of the State have intensified its use. Increasingly, this use is threatening the natural resources and rural lifestyle that make the Blackfoot River Valley a special place. Local landowners and users are concerned about the loss of intact landscapes and a decline in environmental quality. They are also worried that they may lose their traditional livelihoods and rural way of life. To coordinate efforts to address these concerns, they formed the Blackfoot Challenge, a 1.5-million-acre watershed organization. The partnership now includes more than 500 individual and organizational members.
Examples of Key Partners
More than 500 private citizens, landowners and ranchers; 7 federal agencies, 29 corporations and businesses, 45 state and local agencies, 17 foundations, and 31 nonprofit organizations.
Results and Accomplishments
• Weeds management—GIS mapping on 474,727 acres with 34 percent under active weed and grazing management.
• Large landscape protection—89,000 acres of private lands under perpetual conservation easements.
• Streams restoration—39 tributaries, including 38 miles of instream restoration and 62 miles of riparian restoration.
• Habitat improvement—2,600 acres of wetlands and 2,300 acres of native grasslands restored.

• Water conservation—75 irrigators and recreational outfitters voluntarily participated in emergency drought response.

• Fisheries improvements—removed fi sh passage barriers affecting 460 miles of stream and installed 13 self-cleaning screens on irrigation ditches.

• Community involvement—community-driven plan directing the resale of 88,000 acres of corporate timber lands.

• Human-wildlife conflicts reduced—93 landowners removed more than 350 animal carcasses in 2005; built 14,000 linear feet of electrified predator-friendly fencing; fenced 60 percent of apiary yards; installed 80 bear-resistant dumpsters.

• School involvement—teachers and students from all schools were engaged in watershed education.

• Community networking—at least 500 people were involved in Blackfoot committees, education outreach, and tours. Blackfoot Challenge webpage and newspaper articles reached 2,759 households and more than 60 partners.

• The Lewis and Clark Return Trail—now mapped and accessible through three gateway kiosks.


Shared a ridge-top to ridge-top conservation vision and management ideal built on a foundation of inclusiveness and trust, on-the-ground conservation results, using the available tools, and showing appreciation for all participants.

Project Contact
Tina Bernd-Cohen
Executive Director
Blackfoot Challenge



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