The Upper Clark Fork sits at a pivotal junction for both wildlife and people, because it lies between two keystone ecosystems: the Greater Yellowstone/High Divide on the south and the Crown of the Continent/Glacier region to the north. As important and impressive as each of these ecosystems is separately, it is only together with the intervening ranchlands of the Upper Clark Fork that the true conservation value and long-term community resiliency of the Northern Rockies can be realized.
The Upper Clark Fork has extraordinary biological and economic potential. But more than a century of large-scale and intensive mining, smelting, logging, and grazing means it also contains hundreds of miles of impaired and disconnected creeks and streams that fall short on their ecological productivity and their contributions to the socio-economic climate of the basin. Fortunately, these waterways and the communities they support are resilient and can be nurtured back to health with the right ingredients.
Groups are already working to restore stream flows on the Upper Clark Fork and the streams that feed into it with Superfund mine cleanups and the removal of a dam.The process is full of complexities and administrative policies that can result in missed opportunities for the watershed. But with a coordinated effort by Montana's natural resource officials, this effort can succeed on a scale that will sustain the ecological and socio-economic recovery of this historically hard-working basin.