Vision: River and stream systems that function in a natural state
and provide for a diversity of flora and fauna.
Within the MOYOCO
ecosystem in Montana, the two main river systems are the Missouri River and its
tributaries, which flow east to the Mississippi River, and tributaries of the Columbia
River, which flow west into the Pacific Ocean.
Trending southward across the western part of Montana, the Continental Divide separates
the state's two major watersheds. West of this continental backbone are the Clark Fork and
the Kootenai River, important tributaries of the Columbia River. The Clark Fork has as its
primary tributaries the Flathead, Blackfoot, and Bitterroot rivers. The Kootenai River
rises in Canada and crosses a small area in northwestern Montana.
The Missouri and its major tributary, the Yellowstone River, are the principal rivers
in eastern Montana. The Missouri begins at the confluence of the Gallatin, Madison, and
Jefferson rivers, near the town of Three Forks. Other tributaries below Three Forks
include the Sun, Teton, Marias, Smith, Judith, Musselshell, and Milk rivers. The
Yellowstone rises south of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, flows north into Montana
and diagonally across the southeastern part of the state before joining the Missouri in
North Dakota just east of the Montana state line. Main tributaries are the Clarks Fork of
the Yellowstone, the Bighorn, the Tongue, and the Powder rivers, all of which also
originate in Wyoming.
A tiny area of northwestern Montana is drained by the Belly, Saint Mary, and Waterton
Rivers, which, rising in Glacier National Park, flow northeast out of the state and into
the Saskatchewan River in Canada. Their waters eventually reach Hudson Bay.
Hydrologically, this area lies outside the MOYOCO proper, but for practical reasons is
considered a part of the ecosystem.
The area covered by the MOYOCO ecosystem in Wyoming is the source of water for three
main drainage systems in the western United States: the Missouri-Mississippi; the Great
Basin; and the Columbia. Rivers joining the Missouri include the Yellowstone, Bighorn,
Powder, Wind, and Belle Fourche rivers, which flow north. Northwestern Wyoming is drained
by the Snake River, a major tributary of the Columbia.
The MOYOCO has numerous lakes and reservoirs. In Montana, most of the natural lakes are
in the mountains of the western third of the state. Flathead Lake, with an area of 191 mi2,
is Montana's largest lake, and the largest natural freshwater lake in the contiguous
states west of the Mississippi River. In Wyoming, the largest natural lake and probably
the largest at its altitude (7,733 ft.) anywhere in the United States is Yellowstone Lake,
which covers an area of 131 mi2 and has a maximum depth of 320 ft. Just to the
south lies the second largest lake in Wyoming, Jackson Lake, with an area of about 40 mi2.
Jackson Lake has been enlarged by a dam on the Snake River. Some of Wyoming's reservoirs
are of impressive size and include the Pathfinder, Seminoe, Glendo, and Boysen reservoirs.
Rivers Goal 1: Maintain, and re-establish where needed the natural form and
function of riverine systems and prevent degradation of riverine habitat.
Work with the partners to achieve water quality standards that are ecologically
By 2001, initiate work with local zoning authorities and regulators to develop and
implement policies that reduce floodplain development and restore river functions.
Increase functional riverine habitat through restorations, creations, and
modification/enhancement where opportunities allow. Attempt 12 projects per year, six in
Montana and six in Wyoming, beginning in 2000.
Work with partners to monitor environmental contaminants, identify issues and problem
areas, and develop strategies for rehabilitation.
Identify and eliminate fish migration barriers and minimize entrainment losses.
Maintain and restore natural ecological conditions through the prevention and
eradication of invasive species.
Rivers Goal 2: Conserve and recover threatened, endangered, proposed, and species of
special concern in riverine and impounded reaches.
Implement recovery efforts for threatened, endangered, proposed, and sensitive fish
species. Work towards achieving recovery plan objectives within the ecosystem
Develop recovery actions or conservation plans for native and imperiled riverine
Establish priority and complete status reviews for species of special concern,
initiating one species per year beginning in 2001.
Maintain and improve inventory data with partners for endangered, threatened,
proposed, and species of special concern in the ecosystem by 2001 to provide baseline
Rivers Goal 3: Fulfill responsibilities for protection, mitigation, and enhancement
of fishery and wildlife resources brought about by the construction and operation of dams.
Support conservation efforts for native species through fish culture, management, and
conservation within the ecosystem.
Rivers Goal 4: Maintain, restore, and enhance riparian communities.
Inventory and determine the quality of riparian habitats within the ecosystem to
provide preliminary baseline information. Support and use FWS National Wetland Inventory
riparian mapping system to conduct habitat assessments.
Use existing programs and opportunities to restore and enhance river buffer zones on
ten percent of the 100-year flood plain on selected river systems by 2010.
Use existing programs and opportunities to restore and enhance 1,500 acres of oxbow
wetlands by 2010 (50% MT, 50% WY).
Support State and Tribal efforts to monitor water quality and biotic communities to
promote compliance with Federal water quality standards.
Protect and restore vegetative communities on riverine systems.
Rivers Goal 5: Conserve, restore, and enhance habitat in watersheds to improve the
quality and quantity of water in rivers and streams.
Use existing oversight, coordination, and technical assistance to promote sound
watershed management. Prioritize watersheds and establish strategies for promoting
Use existing programs and opportunities to conserve, enhance, and restore upland,
wetland, and riparian habitat in riverine corridors to improve runoff quality and
Rivers Goal 6: Support educational and recreational activities in riverine systems
that are compatible with resource protection and the Services trust
Address recreational activities on public lands through the consultation process to
ensure compatibility with Service trust responsibilities.
Use education and outreach to raise the publics awareness of the impacts of
certain recreational activities in riverine environments.