August 10, 2023
This year’s Wildlands Music Festival wrapped up on Sunday, August 6th in Big Sky, Montana, after raising over $513,000 for the Gallatin River Task Force and American Rivers, organizations with similar missions of protecting rivers. This year’s event featured an impressive lineup including the Foo Fighters, Lord Huron, James McMurtry, and many other musicians and comedians, over three days.
“The Wildlands Festival was billed as the largest event to ever be held in support of conserving the Gallatin River and rivers across the country, and it totally lived up to it,” American Rivers’ Northern Rockies Director Scott Bosse said. “What transpired over those three days was simply magical. It was a dream come true.”
The fundraising is intended to advance the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act (MHLA), which was introduced by Senator Jon Tester in the U.S. Senate in 2021 and 2023. It would designate nearly 400 miles of rivers in Montana as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
Segments of these rivers are currently included in the proposed federal legislation:
- Smith River
- Tenderfoot Creek
- Gallatin River
- Hyalite Creek
- Taylor Creek
- Madison River
- Bear Creek
- Boulder River
- Hellroaring Creek
- Lake Fork Rock Creek
- Rock Creek
- Slough Creek
- Stillwater River
- West Boulder River
- West Fork Stillwater River
- West Fork of Rock Creek
- Yellowstone River
- Cabin Creek
- Middle Fork of Cabin Creek
- Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River
“We’re going to use our share of the proceeds to ramp up our efforts to get the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act passed by next year and reach our goal of protecting one million river miles across the country by 2030,” Bosse added.
The MHLA is currently pending in the U.S. Senate.
American Rivers is a nationwide river conservation non-profit that works to protect and restore rivers nationwide for the benefit of people, wildlife, and nature. Since its founding in 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored over 150,000 miles of rivers and streams.
The Gallatin River Task Force is a small non-profit based in Big Sky that works to protect the Gallatin River drainage–the river itself flows through the town’s “Canyon Village.” The Gallatin River has been under a great deal of stress in recent summers, seeing annual algae blooms that can suffocate aquatic insects, choke out oxygen, and create warmer water temps, largely due to excessive nutrient runoff from the rapidly growing community.
Emmy-Award Winning Actor Tom Skerritt spoke on a panel on the event’s first day.
"Preserving rivers has been a lifelong passion for me, and I’m honored to partner with Outlaw Partners to increase awareness of the importance of river conservation through this special Wildlands weekend," he said on the event’s website.
The Wildlands Music Festival celebrated all of Montana’s wild places. Promoters said the festival is a reminder that we all have a responsibility to protect our natural resources for future generations. It was held at the relatively intimate 5,000-seat Big Sky Events Arena, in front of majestic Lone Peak in the Madison Range.
This year’s event was hampered by rainstorms and cool weather, but the hardy faithful got the concert they came for late Sunday evening.
“You didn’t think this was gonna happen, did you?” Foo Fighters frontman Grohl said as he came on stage, as reported by Explore Big Sky. “Oh, it’s happening now.”
This year’s success has the festival poised to repeat in future years to “bring people together who have a mutual love for wild and scenic lands, outdoor recreation, parks, trails, and the enjoyment of what makes this part of the world special.”
“The event was about more than just raising money,” Bosse clarified. “It was about raising awareness of the threats our rivers face and the need for everyone to take action now. On that front, everyone involved absolutely crushed it.”
Josh Bergan is Fly Fisherman’s digital editor.