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Missouri Headwaters State Park receives River Fund Trust grant

A project to add bear-proof garbage and food storage boxes in the camping and use areas of Missouri Headwaters State Park near Three Forks was one of nine public recreation improvement projects awarded grant and matching funds in 2024 from the Missouri-Madison River Fund Trust and Northwestern Energy.

$164,446 from NorthWestern Energy and $369,703 from the Missouri-Madison River Fund will be combined with $224,780 from agency and project partners for over $750,000 for the nine projects.

According to a release, Northwestern Energy will supplement these funds by contributing $554,309 to state, federal, and local agencies for operation and maintenance efforts at many existing recreation sites in 2024.

“NorthWestern Energy and its employees are proud to continue to support the Missouri-Madison River Fund Trust,” said NorthWestern Energy Hydropower License Compliance Manager Andy Welch. “Success of the grant program depends not only on NorthWestern Energy but also on the dedication by a board of directors that represents entities and agencies that actively manage public recreation in the Missouri-Madison Corridor. We are grateful for the foresight and commitment to collaboration that allowed for such a unique public-private partnership to be formed in the 1990s and the continued commitment that has allowed the program to flourish over the past number of years.”

The project’s total cost at Missouri Headwaters State Park is $20,346. In the application submitted for the funding, the breakdown for costs of the project would be $4,000 from the park (20 percent), $15,346 from the River Fund Trust Grant (75 percent), and a $1,000 (5 percent) NorthWestern Energy Match Request.

In the application for funding submitted by FWP Region 3 Recreation Manager Linnaea Schroeer, Missouri-Headwaters State Park has two goals for the project with a projected completion date of Spring 2024.

The first goal is to promote responsible user behavior that protects natural, cultural, and social resources.

“Human-bear conflicts have been increasing throughout southwest Montanan, becoming a high-priority management issue. By placing bear resistant containers in our campground and picnic areas FWP strives to reduce bear access to human foods and thus reduce the chance for potential human-bear conflicts,” Schroeer wrote in the application.

The project’s second goal is to maintain or proactively increase public safety for recreationists.

“Securing food and garbage is critically important to the safety of park visitors, especially as bear populations increase and expand their geographic range in SW Montana. Not only does securing garbage prevent conflict between humans and bears, but it also prevents agency resources from being wasted on trapping, relocating and more often, destroying food-conditioned bears,” Schroeer said.

As part of the project, Missouri-Headwaters State Park will replace five existing conventional garbage cans with bear-resistant bins and food storage lockers in nine of the 18 campsites.

Missouri-Madison River Fund Trust

(From NorthWestern Energy)

Thirteen of the 25 projects funded through the River Fund Trust and NorthWestern Energy matching funds from 2021 through 2023 have been completed. Projects currently underway will add a courtesy dock at Rainbow Point Campground on Hebgen Lake, expand camping and shoreline access at Meadow Lake Fishing Access Site on Ennis Lake, and drill a new drinking water well at the Trapper Springs recreation site on the Lower Madison River. At Holter Lake, the U.S. Forest Service is installing new sign kiosks at three sites and reconstructing deteriorated portions of the Beaver Creek access trail that links Hauser Dam to the Beaver Creek day-use site downstream. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will install solar arrays to help power administrative buildings at campgrounds on Hauser and Holter lakes, while the Bureau of Reclamation will upgrade ADA-access trails at Riverside Campground at the upper end of Hauser Lake.

Projects funded in 2024 raise the tally to 169 projects funded by the River Fund Trust since the first year of awards in 2007. Project awards by the fund have totaled about $350,000 per year and $6.4 million to date while matching funds from NorthWestern Energy have contributed another $1.8 million. River Fund grants and NorthWestern Energy matching funds have helped leverage public agency and partner funding to provide nearly $13 million in public recreation improvements in the Missouri-Madison Corridor since 2007.

The Missouri-Madison River Fund trust for public recreation, currently valued at $6.9 million, was created through the collaborative efforts of NorthWestern Energy; Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Bureau of Land Management; Madison, Gallatin, Broadwater, Lewis & Clark, Cascade and Chouteau counties; and numerous other public and private partners. This year marks the 18th year in which earnings from the trust have been awarded to recreation improvement projects through the River Fund grant program.

Created as a public-private partnership to meet public recreation needs along the Madison and Missouri rivers, the River Fund supports ongoing efforts to protect and enhance recreation from Hebgen Reservoir downstream to Fort Benton, excluding the Broadwater and Canyon Ferry hydroelectric plants and the river segment between them. River Fund awards for qualifying projects will continue on an annual basis, with grants awarded each December.

A list of projects can be found in the River Fund segment of the Clean Energy - Hydropower section of NorthWestern Energy’s website at, as well as information about NorthWestern Energy and its hydroelectric facilities.

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