Spring 2024 News & Notes

Old Town Bridge

Old Town, New Bridges
The Montana Department of Transportation is planning for the replacement of the Old Town bridges on the Jefferson River. Both the east and west bridges were built in the late 1800s, and have been classic jumping spots for generations of kids and adults seeking to catapult into the river (the east being the more popular locale, as the water is deeper). The centuries-old metal bridges will be replaced by concrete structures, estimated to cost about $2 million each. Construction is scheduled to begin in June and be completed by the end of 2024. Former thrill-seekers will miss the arching trusses for jumping, and the bars and beams for playing on underneath. But it appears to be the mission of government entities to take the fun out of bridge jumping—the Forest Service is also planning to replace the Green Bridge in Gallatin Canyon in 2025. Farewell, summertime traditions. —Fischer Genau

Gallatin sewage spill

Water Warrior
John Meyer and his Cottonwood Environmental Law Center continue the fight to protect the rivers of southwest Montana through legal action. This year, the tenacious nonprofit fought off criminal trespass charges against Meyer, who was cited after collecting water samples while fishing a tributary of the Gallatin downstream of the Yellowstone Club. More recently, Meyer recorded the YC illegally discharging treated sewage into a tributary of the Gallatin, and in January asked a Montana district court to stop development in the area. Cottonwood also began settlement discussions with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in response to the leakage of sewage water from the Big Sky water-treatment holding ponds, and asked a district court to stop Spanish Peaks from further development. Moving forward, Cottonwood is rallying for more support. They recently brought on legal fellow Griffin Williams, added several new advisory-board members, and are seeking to boost their realm of influence. To learn more or to join the fight, visit cottonwoodlaw.org. —Fischer Genau

FWP secrecy

An Immodest Proposal
There’s a lot of concern about governmental transparency these days, and some of it awfully close to home. Our own Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) department is proposing a policy change that would severely hamper public oversight of its operations. First adopted as departmental policy in 1976, ARM 12.2.306 requires (in brief) that department policy be open to input from concerned Montana residents and the groups that represent them. Such input has been critical to the interests of those who care about our outdoor resources. The department now is proposing to revoke this reasonable, time-tested rule. All outdoor enthusiasts need to defend it—so please take action. Written comments will be accepted until March 24, and can be sent to [email protected]. A public hearing is also scheduled for March 24, but even after the hearing it’s worth making your voice heard by writing a letter or email to FWP director Dustin Temple. —Don Thomas