Tipping point territory: Development taking toll on Big Hole River

Editor’s Note: This story is part of “River in Peril,” a four-part series produced by reporters and photographers from The Montana Standard, and videographers from the Helena Independent Record.

Read about River in Peril:

The summer of 2021 posed grim challenges in the Big Hole Valley, and current dry conditions suggest 2022 could be similarly challenging. Many stakeholders agree that the river flowing through the valley is now in peril – facing threats from climate change, prolonged drought, irrigation withdrawals, pollution, heavy recreation use, development and more. Over the past several months, Montana Standard reporters and photographers have worked on this four-part series, which runs Sunday through Wednesday. Stories examine the past and present of the Big Hole River, the many factors impacting the quality and quantity of its waters, and how groups with competing interests are collaborating to save what many believe to be “Montana’s Last Best River.”

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The combination of crotchety natives, pesky mosquitoes and harsh, prolonged winters provides one formula for discouraging subdivisions.  

That’s according to a couple of irreverent respondents to a Beaverhead County Community Survey released in November 2020.  

But for those who care about the future of the Big Hole River and for the scenic valley through which it flows,

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