Bitter Root Water Forum Brings People Together to Protect Natural Resources

Article originally released on November 8 by the Montana Watershed Coordination Council, a non-profit that unites and supports Montana’s watershed communities across the state. This first appeared as part of Watershed Stories, a series highlighting the personal stories of individuals and organizations who are working to protect and restore their local streams and rivers.

Corvallis dairy farmer Dan Huls, Hamilton brewery partner Nicol Musburger, and Stevensville fly-fishing outfitter Eddie Olwell are united in a common goal: protecting the Bitterroot River and its tributaries. Although each one of them has a different connect to life in the Bitterroot Valley, they all depend on the river for their livelihoods—and they know their neighbors do, too.

Photo by Eliza Wiley

“We are all in the same boat, even if folks don’t always realize it,” said Huls.

Huls, Musburger and Olwell are among the many Bitterroot residents whose personal stories and connections to the river fuel the work of the Bitter Root Water Forum (BRWF), a community driven non-profit dedicated to supporting the traditions of agriculture, community and recreation by protecting, enhancing and restoring the Bitterroot watershed. BRWF focuses on bringing community members together to find common ground and innovative solutions to protect the landscape they all share.

“The water is a huge part of our identity and what makes this place so special to live,” explained Musburger. “It benefits all our lives in so many ways.”

“We all need water to survive and thrive, here in the Bitterroot and everywhere else in the world,” said BRWF Executive Director Heather Barber. “Water is life, and conservation rises above politics.”

By telling the stories of the Bitterroot’s diverse inhabitants, BRWF encourages mutual understanding over infighting, and collaborative solutions over finger-pointing.

“That’s what the Bitter Root Water Forum is good at: listening, building relationships, finding solutions,” said Olwell. “We have more in common than we sometimes think.”

The Bitter Root Water Forum is one of more than 60 groups throughout the state that make up the Montana Watershed Coordination Council (MWCC), which works to manage the state’s complex land and water issues. To read more about how Huls, Musburger, Olwell, and others are protecting Montana’s waterways, check out their full stories here. Celebrating the people who protect and value Montana’s resources is one way MWCC unites and supports Montana’s watershed communities and promotes healthy and productive landscapes.

Each year, MWCC recognizes individuals and groups that are providing innovative, locally led approaches to conserving, protecting, restoring, and enhancing watersheds in Montana with its Watershed Stewardship Awards. The group is currently accepting nominations for the 2019 award. To learn more, or nominate an individual or group in Montana that is doing outstanding work to protect the state’s watersheds, click here.

Lastly, to learn more about the Bitter Root Water Forum, contact Heather Barber at (406) 375-2272 or visit

Press release by Montana Watershed Coordination Council. All photos by Eliza Wiley. Feature photo of Nicol Musburger of Bitterroot Brewing and dairy farmer Dan Huls.