• Preservation of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in their native greater Yellowstone region
    • support removal of lake trout from Yellowstone Lake through the purchase of transponders used to track lake trout throughout the year and eventually identifying lake trout spawning beds; general contribution of funds to Wyoming Trout Unlimited
    • supported the restoration of Yellowstone cutthroat spawning streams in Silver Gate, Montana, the spawning streams flow directly into Soda Butte Creek, a tributary of the Lamar River in Yellowstone Park.
    • financial support and testimony support for the removal of brook trout from Soda Butte creek and the introduction of native Yellowstone cutthroat into Soda Butte Creek above Cooke City, Montana.
  • Financial support and manpower support to Montana Trout Unlimited and their projects to support native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, native Westslope cutthroat trout in western Montana, restoration of Silver Bow creek, a tributary to the Clark’s Fork,
  • Opposition to the Tintina Black Butte copper mine on Sheep Creek, a tributary to the Smith River in central Montana, included public meetings in Billings to explain the dangers of a copper mine near the Smith River and identifying resources at Montana Trout Unlimited that explain the importance and process to opposing the Montana DEQ granting a permit
  • Promoting Montana Trout Unlimited’s legislative agenda and daily update for the upcoming Montana legislative session
Smith River
Protecting the Smith River from copper mining is challenging because Montana’s mining laws are very permissive. Further, industry lobbyists continue pursuing efforts aimed at limiting public sentiment in decision making. 

The National Conservation Agenda is set by the National Leadership Council of Trout Unlimited, a body of representatives from the grassroots and volunteer leaders.

Climate Change and Global Warming

A changing climate is perhaps the greatest long-term threat to trout and salmon habitat there is, but TU, using the best science available, is doing its best to arm North America’s coldwater streams for rising temperatures, fluctuating water levels and unpredictable weather, all with intent to ensure coming generations the same—or better—opportunities to fish for trout and salmon in the years to come.

Roads and Development

Our country is blessed with millions of acres of public lands, the best of which is still wild and remote and teeming with fish and game. But as development takes hold, we lose precious backcountry, which directly impacts trout and salmon habitat. As a result, we, as anglers, lose opportunity. TU is working with all parties to protect the best of what’s left of our irreplaceable “roadless” habitat on public lands in hopes of protecting the best hunting and fishing left in America.


For generations, agricultural practices largely ignored vital fish and game habitat in favor of crop yield, often with disastrous results. In recent years, agricultural producers—often with the help and assistance of groups like Trout Unlimited—have come to realize that healthy habitat not only protects America’s fishing and hunting heritage, but also results in healthy yield. TU works with farmers and ranchers all over America to economize water use, restore trout and salmon streams to habitable conditions and upgrade basic practices that benefit both production and irreplaceable habitat. That, of course, means better fishing today, and for years to come.

Aquatic Invasive Species

From whirling disease and “rock snot” to invasive species like New Zealand mud snails and exotic fish species, America’s trout and salmon streams are under attack from all fronts. Trout Unlimited works with anglers and state and federal agencies to slow the spread of exotic invaders that are impacting our trout and salmon populations and our opportunity to pursue them. We’re educating anglers to help prevent new infestations, and we’re working to directly remove invasive species from waters where they don’t belong.


Over the years, irresponsible logging has taken its toll on salmon and trout stream, particularly in the Northwest, where many runs of salmon and steelhead are now endangered thanks to limited spawning and rearing habitat in logging-impaired watersheds. In recent years, TU has worked with industry and state and federal agencies to improve logging practices, and to identify quality habitat that should be safeguarded in perpetuity in order to protect our irreplaceable salmon and trout streams, and our opportunity fish for these prized species.


For more than 200 years, much of America’s progress has come at the expense of free-flowing rivers. We’ve erected thousands of dams to impound water, improve irrigation and quench our thirst. Unfortunately, these dams also block vital habitat for migrating fish, including trout and salmon. For years, TU has worked collaboratively to remove aging and obsolete dams, improve dams without fish passage and prevent unneeded dam construction, all for the benefit of fish … and fishing.

Energy Development

New technologies have allowed for expanded shale gas and oil development across the country. This development in happening in places that are important to hunters and anglers—places like northern Appalachia, across the West, in the Pacific Northwest and other places where trout and salmon live. TU supports responsible energy development, when it is done in the right places with the right safeguards. Working with sportsmen and women, the energy industry, and state and federal partners, we have had success in protecting critical fish and wildlife habitat from drilling-related impacts—the very areas where sportsmen and women hunt and fish. By mobilizing sportsmen both in the East and in the West to direct energy development away from high-value hunting and fishing areas, we are working to protect our sporting heritage for future generations.


Abandoned Mines

More than 27,000 stream miles are polluted from abandoned mines across the nation. These historic coal and hard-rock mines taint otherwise healthy trout streams with heavy metals and acidity that, in some cases, impact trout waters for miles downstream. TU, working with partners in the mining industry and with state and federal agencies, is cleaning up old mine sites and making these streams habitable and fishable once again.


The Yellowstone is a river of legend, where an angler can cast to rising native trout amid the splendor of the world’s first national park, or hop a ride in a drift boat and cast to wild browns through Montana’s Paradise Valley. To this day, from its source high in the Wyoming Thoroughfare to its confluence with the mighty Missouri on the Montana prairie, the Yellowstone flows free—no dams mar this amazing wild river.

The Yellowstone basin includes trout-rich tributary rivers like the Shields and Bighorn. Flowing north for 461 miles from Wyoming into Montana, the Bighorn gathers water from the Shoshone, Wind and Greybull Rivers and just inside Montana is the incredible tailwater trout fishery created by the Yellowtail Dam. This world-class wild trout fishery attracts more anglers than any other river in Montana.

Unfortunately, the last 100 years have been hard on the Yellowstone. A century of farming and ranching has degraded riparian habitat, resulting in chronic low flows and made worse by high water temperatures caused by years of drought. Miles of rip-rap line the river’s banks, disconnecting it from its natural floodplain. Yellowstone Lake has seen its native cutthroat trout population decimated thanks to voracious non-native lake trout. In recent years, the threat of poorly planned oil and gas drilling has emerged in the eastern Yellowstone basin on both federal and state lands.

TU and its volunteers are committed to protecting the Yellowstone from present threats and restoring the river’s habitat to its former glory.


Improve flows on key tributaries. TU is working with landowners and state and federal partners to restore stream flows and remove barriers related to irrigation infrastructure and culverts on upper Yellowstone tributaries like Mill Creek and streams within the Shields River basin, which serve as important spawning and rearing habitat for Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

Control invasive fish on Yellowstone Lake. We’re also working on a long-term effort to reduce invasive, predatory lake trout populations, which have decimated native cutthroats in the lake, by working with the Yellowstone National Park and other partners to track and harvest lake trout.

Restore Bighorn River flows. Federal operations of Yellowtail dam on the Bighorn are erratic and often harmful to this world-class trout fishery. We’ll work with Bureau of Reclamation to reform dam operations so water is released to better mimic the natural flow regime, increase wild trout populations, and insulate the priceless fishery during droughts.


TU’s Montana Water Project has worked with landowners, agencies and other partners on several stream restoration projects on the Yellowstone. For instance, TU partnered with the Murphy family ranch in Paradise Valley to restore flows to North Fridley Creek, which was chronically dewatered by irrigation diversions. By upgrading the ranch’s irrigation system, project partners were able to restore year-round flows to Fridley and reconnect it to the Yellowstone mainstem for the first time in decades. Just weeks after project completion, spawning cutthroats were seen in the small creek. Rancher Sean Murphy said he was “thrilled” with TU’s restoration.

Staff Contact

Laura Ziemer, TU’s director of Montana Water Project



Author of this Page

Randy Scholfield
Director of Communications, Western Water Project