August 2011 - Clark Fork Flooding

Aug 24, 2011

Captain's Log, 1XE, Day 15 of the month of June in the Earth calendar year 2011.

We are flying over the swollen Clark Fork River tumbling down from the Silver Bow Mountains near Anaconda, Montana. The Clark Fork is the main drainage for the Blackfoot, Flathead and Bitterroot Rivers, forming the major portion of the Columbia River watershed and emptying into Lake Pend Oreille in northern Idaho.

Our flights are to assist the Clark Fork Coalition who were very concerned with flooding this spring. Floods exacerbate ongoing acid mine drainage from mining in Butte and Anaconda. The history of mining in these areas dates back over 100 years and is still creating much damage to the landscape.

Water water everywhere. No wonder our planet is called the water planet. Especially when you have a spring and early summer like this year. 2011 has been a record breaker starting with our monster snowpack, then ultra-heavy spring rains, compounding potential run off concerns in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. While Arizona and New Mexico struggled with drought and baked each day, the Northern Rockies was awash in huge thunderstorms, tornadoes, frontal and monsoonal rain. Global Weirding is definitely at work.

As I flew over some of our last best places in Montana travelling from Three Forks (where the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers form the Missouri) to Malta on the plains of Eastern Montana, each geographic area had a different and uniquely interesting issue associated with it: from flying for the protection of the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge and the phenomenal grasslands of the Missouri Breaks to wild land protection in the Gallatin Mountains outside of Bozeman, to maintaining wildlife corridors near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Each day I would call back to Colorado worried that the Conundrum Creek at my cabin would flood and then I was back to flying over a green Montana landscape where farms were inundated by water from record breaking precipitation.

The grasslands in eastern Montana that have gone from drought in 2010 to floods in 2011 were of particular interest to writers of outdoor magazines, as the hunting and fishing in the area is phenomenal. Our work with conservationists focused on how to protect this unique and vast land, whether it is through acts of wilderness or conservation area designation.

I remain in awe at our planet as it shucks and jives through daily climate changes yet remains steadfast and nourishing in its entirety. I am constantly reminded how precious these ecosystems are and how mindful we must continue to be in our efforts to protect them.


Bruce Gordon.