Bighorn River Alliance

Protecting one of Montana's finest trout fisheries is not an easy job.  Here's a glimpse at a page from the Bighorn River Alliance website that should provide some of you an outlet to help.  I'm proud to be a member of this worthwhile organization, and would encourage those that are interested to continue reading, or click the link to become another protector of this resource.

Statement of Purpose

Understanding that the Bighorn River is potentially the finest trout fishery in America, it is our purpose to preserve, protect and enhance the quality of this fishery. In this understanding it is incumbent upon us, the users of the Bighorn to address the following issues and related concerns:

  • water flows

  • bag limits

  • angler populations

  • angler access

  • trout populations

  • tackle restrictions

  • water quality

  • recreational easements and education

  • general aquatic biology

All efforts shall be directed toward maximizing quality angling opportunity on the Bighorn River.

It is further the purpose of this organization of anglers and professionals to develop positive relationships and work together with all management agencies involved with the well being of the Bighorn River.

Organizational memberships will in no way be limited, but shall include as much representation as possible from all users of the Bighorn River.

The Bighorn River Alliance is a non-profit organization.

History and Accomplishments of the Bighorn River Alliance

 Early in 1995 The Bighorn River Alliance was formed to contest a proposed land swap between the National Park Service and the Crow Indian tribe in which 3-Mile Access and the 340 acre Lind Ranch adjacent to the access and ramp was to be ceded to the tribe in exchange for right-of-way which was not obtained at the time of construction on the road to Ok-A-Beh Marina. Alliance leadership participated in numerous meetings, both public and otherwise, regarding the proposed transaction. The Alliance published newsletters educating the public on this issue. Board members telephoned and called numerous letters to government officials. Hale Harris had a brief meeting in Billings, Montana with Governor Mark Racicot concerning this issue. The Alliance also encouraged many prominent citizens and Bighorn River anglers to write letters to their respective congressmen concerning this issue. The proposed legislation was set aside.

The Alliance has organized and participated in several “river cleanup” days on the river.

The Alliance has published a document on River Etiquette & Ethics which was distributed to local area fly shops and Park Service officials. The document detailed proper etiquette to follow in order to minimize social conflicts and increase the overall angling experience on the Bighorn River. It also educated anglers as to properly identifying trout spawning beds, and avoiding these areas while wading.

The Alliance donated money to the Bighorn Businessman’s Association (BBA). The BBA was organized to combat a 4% resort tax which was to be levied on businesses in the Bighorn River Valley. The BBA’s attorney later prevailed in preventing the implementation of this tax. While a taxation issue might seem peripheral to the Alliance’s Statement of Purpose, allowing the Crow Tribe to gain control of any river-based activities was deemed as counterproductive to long-term, responsible stewardship of the river.

Alliance leadership officials have spoken at Magic City Flyfishers meetings to help educate local anglers on Bighorn River issues, and to create strategic alliances.

The Alliance received copies of FWP biological studies, fish census surveys, and angling pressure data in order to better understand our resource.

The Alliance has attended a number of “water rights” meetings with representatives from the Crow Tribe, National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and other officials.

The Alliance has participated in many meetings with FWP officials regarding Bighorn River management issues. We have hosted FWP officials at our general and board meetings. We have expressed our opinion on many issues regarding bag limits, water flows, and other management issues.

On December 4th 1998 the Big Horn River Alliance donated $ 5,000.00 toward the construction of the new boat ramp at Bighorn Access and allowing that project to become a reality. The new ramp has proved to be a wonderful improvement to the access site.

At that time the Alliance basically went dormant for want of a crisis and lack of interest on the part of the membership.

Then again in early 2005 the land exchange with the Crow Tribe of Indians and the give-way of the Lind (three mile) Fishing Access and ranch property came to the front again in the form of proposed federal legislation. The Alliance remobilized, caused some changes to be made in the proposed bill, spent time with Senators and Congressmen and in the end the bill once again went to the wayside for want of support.

Alliance board members have interviewed FWP official Ken Frazer concerning invasive species which pose a potential threat to the health of the Bighorn River. These species include New Zealand mud snails, Whirling Disease, and the algae, Didymo.

Alliance board members have discussed entomology issues with the Montana State University Entomology Group regarding the various insect species currently in the river, and the effects of water flows on the health and proliferation of these species.

The Alliance has organized a letter writing campaign to encourage support for Senate bill S.307, a bill introduced by Max Baucus and John Tester, which would establish preferred minimum river flows at 2,500 cfs.

The Alliance has participated in numerous interagency and public meetings regarding the river flow management policies of the Bureau of Reclamation. BurRec’s policies have been extremely detrimental to the overall health of the Bighorn River fishery in the last decade.

The Alliance helped fund research involving the amount of usage the Bighorn River fishing access sites receive versus fishing access sites on Bighorn Lake in Wyoming. These counts have been largely discounted by the Bureau of Reclamation as “your statistics”.

The Bighorn River Alliance has formed a strategic alliance with Friends of the Bighorn River, an organization led by Doug Haacke. From the beginning, Doug has been at the forefront of the controversy concerning river flows. Doug has graciously joined our Advisory Board of Directors.

BRA board member, Dennis Fischer, has organized an “invasive species” eradication program and is working with Federal, State, County and Tribal officials to address the issue of excessive Salt Cedar and Russian Olive trees on the banks of the Bighorn River. A project is planned for the 2011 season to eradicate these species on the Big Horn River Access property. With the cooperation of the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks the Alliance will provide manpower and will provide the funding for rental equipment.

Under the leadership of Frank Johnson, Alliance leadership and members organized the Bighorn River Youth Adventure Week. In conjunction with the Federation of Fly Fishers, this event hosted twelve teenage anglers during five days of conservation, fly tying, and fly fishing instruction on the Bighorn River. This event was established in order to showcase the river’s legendary fishing, and to give something back to the fishing and conservation community. Our hope is to stimulate these kids to go home and mentor others and bring more of the younger generation into fly fishing. Bighorn River Youth Adventure Week will be held again in 2011. It is the hope of some to make the Adventure an annual event.