The Clark Fork Coalition is dedicated to protecting and restoring water quality throughout the Clark Fork watershed.

Like many other conservation groups, the Coalition was born in response to a local crisis. In 1983, Champion International`s pulp mill west of Missoula, Montana asked the state water quality bureau to relax the pollution restrictions in its discharge permit. The mill`s settling ponds were failing. Champion figured it could either produce less pulp and linerboard, or lower the ponds by releasing more waste into the Clark Fork. When the company opted for the latter, citizens from Deer Lodge, MT to Sandpoint, ID began speaking out against the mill`s request. The circle of alarm quickly expanded to the point where some organization was needed. Thus, the Clark Fork Coalition was born. Eventually, leaders from Champion and the Coalition sat down to find a way to fix the settling pond problem without damaging the river, and presented the solution jointly to the state to adopt.

The Coalition took the lessons learned from the pulp mill episode and has applied them to other problems in the basin. This effective model of science-based advocacy is what we still do today.

Watershed Cleanup & Restoration

During the previous century, we demanded a lot from our rivers and streams: they carried our waste, fueled our mines, generated our power, grew our crops, raised our cities. The upper Clark Fork, in particular, was the region`s workhorse. But the river paid the price. Headwater creeks have been sterilized, nearby forests leveled, floodplain soils contaminated, fish populations decimated.

Watershed Protection

The previous 100 years demanded a lot of the Clark Fork River and only recently have we begun to learn the hard lessons of rivers dammed, creekbeds mined, waters poisoned, and fish routed from their historic homes. Beneath it all, is one core truth: it`s easier to do it right upfront-to prevent, rather than cleanup, a mess-making in our irreplaceable waters.

That`s why we work so hard to stop or reroute projects, such as mines, riverside growth, and nutrient pollution-projects that would have lasting, severe, or difficult-to-reverse impacts on these waters.

Research & Education

The Clark Fork Coalition is a passionate and steady voice for the river. We believe our collective future depends on our ability to protect the basin`s waters. We stand for a clean watershed, because it is the foundation for healthy landscapes, vibrant economies, and livable communities in this region. We are an advocacy organization and we put science at the forefront in all the work that we do.

One of our basic functions is getting people informed about the watershed, and getting them involved in the crucial decisions affecting water quality. To that end, we work to give people information on how to better understand and connect with their river, how to change everyday habits to protect clean water, and how to become river basin citizens.