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Mission Statement

To understand, conserve, and enhance the unique ecological and recreational resources of the Upper Missouri River Watershed.


Board of Directors

Board Chairman
Dr. Alan Shaw
Big Sky, Montana

Vice Chair
Sherry Meador
Helena, Montana

Board Secretary and Treasurer
Gary “Pete” Peterson
Helena, Montana

Executive Committee
Kevin Cumley
Helena, Montana

Pat Hunter
Wolf Creek, Montana

Bill Ryan
Butte, Montana

Bailey Sory
San Francisco, California

UMOWA’s Work Continues

I am Dr. Alan Shaw, Chairman of the Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance. We are pleased to present our second newsletter and are committed to informing our members and the watershed related community about our work to preserve and protect this precious resource.

UMOWA continues to work on the following broad issues/projects:

UMOWA will be working on our third project starting Spring of 2020. This will be above the Wolf Creek bridge and will be our most aggressive project to date.

UMOWA will continue to work closely with the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) division of Montana FWP to continue to monitor this issue and offer support to combat this threat to our watershed. We are pleased to have Liz Stodman, AIS Information Officer, write an article for our newsletter speaking to the importance of being vigilant in AIS prevention.

UMOWA has worked tirelessly to collect valid scientific data on macroinvertebrates (bugs) and water quality over the past five years. Dave Stagliano’s article highlights the importance of maintaining continuous, long-term data sets. This past summer, we began our most aggressive project to date: an aquatic plant study to assess the quantity and quality of the plant growth in the river. We have all observed the changes in aquatic vegetation and UMOWA has contracted with scientists to undertake the study. The result of the first phase of the study follows and plans for a more thorough evaluation in the summer of 2020 will be detailed.


We have produced a professional video to promote our work and highlight important issues. Visit to view the video.

UMOWA needs your continued support and we are hopeful you will see the benefit of helping us continue these important efforts.

Montana’s Waters Threatened by Aquatic Invaders
by Liz Lodman, Montana FWP AIS Information Officer

The Missouri River offers incredible fishing opportunities enjoyed by Montanans and nonresidents every year.  Unfortunately, Montana’s waters are under threat from aquatic invaders, and every angler who casts a line in the Mighty Mo should be concerned. 

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are nonnative plants, animals or diseases that can have negative impacts. Since they have no natural predators, these invaders can rapidly reproduce and overwhelm the plants, animals and fish that inhabit a waterbody. 

One of the most destructive AIS are zebra and quagga mussels that like to attach to underwater surfaces and steal food away from the local fish. 

This year FWP monitoring crews surveyed 300 waterbodies for invasive mussels. No adult mussels or larvae were detected.  That’s good news, but we can’t let our guard down.  Invasive mussels are found in over 30 states and provinces and folks from those states like to recreate on our waters. Adult mussels can survive out of water for weeks attached to boat hulls and their microscopic larvae can travel unnoticed in standing water on board.

You can help protect our waters by making sure all boats, motorized or not, are clean, drained and dry before transporting.  Montana law requires boaters to stop at roadside inspections stations.  Anyone bringing a boat from out-of-state must get an inspection before launching.  

Anglers should ensure fishing nets, lines, waders and boots are clean, drained and dry  before fishing a new watershed. Allow waders to dry out (or use two pairs), put them in the freezer overnight, or clean them with a bleach solution.

We treasure our water. It’s up to everyone to help protect it for future generations.  Learn more at

Streambank Aquatic Plant Study: Phase One Completed

UMOWA has completed the first phase of our critically important aquatic plant study.  Andrew Skibo of Amaruq Environmental Services and Peter Rice of the University of Montana have provided the first draft of the data from scans done in May, August and October 2019.  Each scan consisted of a single pass following the fall of the river from Holter dam to Cascade.  Andrew and Peter will return in 2020 to perform a bank to bank scan of the same stretch.

The scan produced some interesting results.  A new marine algae species, Ulva Intestinalis, was identified which had not been listed on any prior species lists for the Missouri even though our data shows that it is quite prolific.  The species is rare in Montana and only found in two other watersheds and in very limited amounts.  Surprisingly, the water buttercups, which had been a predominant problem species, was absent and has been replaced by pondweed. We anticipate that the 2020 scans will help explain these phenomena.

In addition to the plant data, we have collected channel bathymetry showing the river depths and sediment compositions.  Comparing May and August runs allowed us to track the changes due to the spring runoff.  Of interest was the scouring effect of the Dearborn flood that exceeded 11,000 cubic feet per second (cfs).  The gravel beds from the mouth of the river to Cascade were drastically changed.  The full survey next year will enable us to compare the plant growth above and below the mouth of the Dearborn.

Keep tuned as we progress! We invite you to check our website,, for updates and please consider donating to UMOWA to support this important project.

UMOWA's Baseline Macroinvertebrate Study
by Dave Stagliano, Montana Biological Survey

2019 marks the fifth year that UMOWA has funded the collection of macroinvertebrates at 7-9 sites in the Upper Missouri River.  Scientifically valid macroinvertebrate data was collected during a variety of river conditions from a low mean discharge year (2016) to one of the highest (2018). Figure 1 - redline denotes average flow.

Macroinvertebrate populations across the study demonstrated patterns associated with streamflow: higher abundances and more silt-tolerant species (scuds, midges, aquatic worms) during below average flow years, and “better” insect communities with more caddisflies and mayflies in high flow years.  Dominant taxa nearest Holter Dam (upstream of Little Prickly Pear Creek-LPPC) have experienced a significant shift to more Trico mayflies and tan caddis with fewer scuds and blackflies (Table 1).  The invasive New Zealand mudsnail densities decreased at this site from ~373 per meter squared in 2016 to <200 per m2 in 2018; decreases in NZMS abundances have been documented at 5 of the 7 sites in 2018.

Table 1. Abundance of dominant taxa at the Missouri River upstream of LPPC between 2016 and 2018.

Regarding insect community “health”, the long-term monitoring site below Holter Dam (Northwestern Energy data) has seen bioassessment scores increase with each spring flushing flow and scores this high (65.7% in 2018) have not been seen since 1998 (Figure 2).

To be able to compare communities at sites over decades and document these trends underscores the importance of maintaining continuous, long-term data sets. UMOWA is committed to collect this important data at multiple sites in the Missouri River so that we may understand how insect communities respond to restoration management activities or modified dam operations.
Copyright © 2020 Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance, All rights reserved., The Voice of the Missouri

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 377
Helena, MT 59601

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Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance · PO Box 377 · Helena, MT 59624 · USA

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