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Individual Placement Program

[Image Description: A MCC member and Forest Service employee are rafting down a river. The Forest Service employee is rowing the raft while the other is holding onto paperwork, likely for the survey they are completing. Off in the distance, there are mass

Rallying for the River: How Community Efforts Protect the Gallatin Watershed

A group of people stand with filled trash bags, joyous over the litter they have cleaned up.

If you drive along the Gallatin River in the summertime, you’ll likely see a series of rafts bounding through iconic whitewater, anglers enjoying the blue-ribbon trout fishery, and many more visitors at trailheads and campgrounds. From rafters to hikers, they all relish the recreation opportunities and scenic beauty of southwest Montana. Though we love to see the river in use, it is not without consequences. With all the visitation, litter and trash accumulates which threatens the health and beauty of the Gallatin River. As the busy season begins to wind down and tourist numbers drop, our local communities begin to work together to clean up a summer’s worth of use to protect this treasured resource.

The Gallatin River Clean-up is an annual event in partnership between the Gallatin River Task Force and the Gallatin Watershed Council to remove trash from the entire Gallatin Watershed, from Yellowstone National Park all the way to the Missouri Headwaters. Cleaning up litter that has accumulated throughout the summer protects fisheries and wildlife, preserves the quality of our drinking water supply, prevents harm to plants and soil, and ensures the river remains a beautiful place for all to enjoy.

Although our organizations plan and coordinate the event, the Clean-Up is a community-driven effort. We receive tremendous support from our generous sponsors and a variety of other local businesses, nonprofits, and community members who lead clean-up teams and volunteer their time cleaning up trash throughout the community and along the river and highway. We are particularly thankful for the support of Athletic Brewing’s Two for the Trails program, a program that funds river and trail cleanups throughout the country. Their grant funding and drink donations have been incredibly valuable for successfully executing this event. 

We are so thankful for the communities along the Gallatin River. 

We couldn’t do any of our work without them.

This year, the community helped to remove 3,300 pounds of trash throughout the Upper and Lower Gallatin River Watersheds! The Gallatin River Task Force and the Gallatin Watershed Council are incredibly thankful for everyone who participated in this event. Jess Olson, Conservation Manager at the Gallatin River Task Force and Big Sky Watershed Corps alum, said “Every year we are so amazed and inspired by the enthusiasm for the Gallatin River Cleanup. Over 290 volunteers, some new and some loyally returning, showed up to help keep this incredible resource healthy and beautiful. We are so thankful for the communities along the Gallatin River. We couldn’t do any of our work without them.”

The impacts on the community, the river, and the watershed are far-reaching and extend beyond the amount of trash that was cleaned up. This event not only fosters a sense of community and appreciation for the river and our landscapes but also helps to broaden our team of stewards who are passionate about helping to protect our rivers and watersheds for future generations.

Reflecting as Big Sky Watershed Corps members, planning this event was an incredibly beneficial learning experience and a great professional development opportunity. Some of the skills that we developed throughout this process include recruiting and coordinating volunteers, collaborating with event partners and sponsors, writing and managing grants, and promoting the event through various marketing platforms including creating and distributing fliers, newsletter articles, and social media posts. 

Serving with the Gallatin River Task Force and the Gallatin Watershed Council has been an incredible opportunity not only to develop professional skills and broaden our knowledge of watersheds, but also to witness the value of community-based initiatives and the importance of on-the-ground service for restoring, protecting, and preserving our rivers and waterways. The Gallatin River Clean-up is just one example of the many ways that serving with the Montana Conservation Corps makes a meaningful impact to the communities we serve, the places we love, and the resources we rely on. 

The Gallatin River Task Force and the Gallatin Watershed Council would like to thank the generous sponsors of this event: Bozeman Brewing Company, Eco Montana, Happy Trash Can, Janji, Lockhorn Cider, Northwestern Energy, Primal, Protect Our Rivers, Republic Services, REI, First Security Bank, Roxy's Market, Simms, Big Sky Community Organization, American Rivers