Upper Missouri Watershed Protection Campaign

RLF - Western Energy Project
Photo: Jon Mullen
Upper Missouri Watershed Protection Campaign
Resources Legacy Fund – Western Energy Project

The Western Energy Project (WEP) at Resources Legacy Fund is focused on preventing oil and gas development within the Beaverhead, Big Hole, and Red Rock watersheds, which they refer to collectively as the Upper Missouri Watershed. It is situated between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Crown of the Continent. The Upper Missouri Watershed is home to the Big Hole National Battlefield, as well as segments of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail. The landscape is a stronghold for many species, including grizzly bear, elk, mule deer, Greater sage-grouse, native trout, and Arctic grayling. It includes several large blocks of winter range for elk and mule deer, along with several important migration corridors; Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks has also designated most of the Upper Missouri Watershed as one of five priority big game habitat areas across the state. Tens of thousands of hunters and anglers utilize the Upper Missouri Watershed each year,, which drives tens of millions of dollars in economic output every year. The watershed also supports blue ribbon trout fisheries which are among the most popular in all of Montana.

WEP is focusing on and engaging with BLM’s habitat management planning process that involves the Upper Missouri Watershed. BLM issued draft versions of its habitat management plans in March and is expected to finalize those plans by the end of the year. WEP will work closely with its partners and community members to advocate for the prohibition of oil and gas leasing on 1.1 million acres within the watershed and the adoption of high-level protections for important fish and wildlife, recreation, water, cultural, and other conservation values on lands where leasing is permitted.