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2023

ANNUAL
REPORT

angler catching a trout in the Bighorn RIver

Anne Marie Emery
Executive Director

 A MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR 

It is with great pride that the Bighorn River Alliance (BHRA) shares the many ways it works in benefit of the Bighorn River through its 2023 Annual Membership Report.  While this report highlights the projects and programs that align BHRA with its mission, it also serves as testament to what BHRA members and supporters make possible through annual contributions to the organizations cause. 2023 will go down as one of best overall years for the Alliance because of the people who helped us at every turn.  


The BHRA research program continues to preserve and enhance the upper Bighorn River as one of the nation’s top tier wild trout fisheries. This past year we increased wild trout habitat by restoring five side-channels, implemented intensive monitoring protocols to assess the success and usage of restored channels over time, refined our aerial drone surveillance of high-use spawning areas, funded and installed a real-time temperature gage and upheld our commitment to the river's long-term health through annual water quality and macroinvertebrate monitoring. Off the river, we had equal impact. We represented the river’s interests at numerous water management forums, reviewed and provided comments on the 2023-2026 Montana Statewide Fisheries Plan, presented at community, state and TU forums and maintained collaborative interagency relationships. 
You make this possible.  In fact, if you question your impact on BHRA and its work to preserve, protect and restore the Bighorn River, consider this:  your collective support of the organization accounted for 77% of our total budget in 2023 - the epitome of grassroots giving.    


As you wade through this report, I hope you feel tremendous pride at the scale of which BHRA works to protect the Bighorn River and its wild trout.  I also hope you feel inspired to continue your support which is fundamental to our growth and projects. It is a phenomenal time to be part of the Bighorn River conservation story and I am incredibly proud of what we are collectively building for the betterment of tomorrow. 


Anne Marie Emery 

Executive Director Message
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connecting tribal youth to fly-fishing

Part of what makes the Bighorn River special is the Crow lands through which the river flows, and the Crow people who call it home. In recognition of the rivers place within the reservation, BHRA developed Tenkara with the Tribe, a youth fishing program that connects tribal youth to fishing Bighorn waters. In partnership with the Crow Tribe and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, BHRA presented the program on the Little Bighorn River this past August with 12 Crow youth participating. Through integration of culture, fun and patient one-on-one instruction, Tenkara with the Tribe promotes inclusivity in fly-fishing and conservation on the Crow Reservation, while introducing the next generation of tribal leaders to the sport as a form of positive recreation that can be enjoyed, forever.

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aquatic insects respond to high flows

Monitoring macroinvertebrates is part of BHRA’s commitment to assessing the health of the river. In 2023, BHRA conducted pre- and post-high flow event assessments. Before high flows, spring aquatic insect populations were dense and dominated by midges, scuds, and worms. Following the high flows, revisits showed a decrease in insect abundance but a ‘healthier’ composition, with more mayflies and caddisflies. This shift indicates that periodic high flow events clear sediment, favoring mayflies and caddisflies over silt-tolerant species. Fall sampling suggests an increase in BWO, Trico, and Tan Caddisfly hatches, especially downstream of Bighorn FAS.

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reservoir data 
sways management

BHRA monitors reservoir temperatures behind the Yellowtail Dam to learn how different runoff scenarios affect the stratification of impounded waters and to examine how release of impounded waters from various elevations, affects downstream river temperatures. In July and August of 2023, BHRA observed water released from the turbine outlet elevation as being 15-20 degrees warmer than in 2021 & 2022, suggesting that the rapid evacuation of reservoir water in the spring, followed by the re-filling of the reservoir with rainfall as opposed to snowmelt, affected temperature stratification. In response to this data, BHRA worked with MFWP and USBR to successfully negotiate water being released from deeper in the reservoir (from the river outlet), bringing cold water relief to the fishery during the hottest summer periods. 

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installing mindfulness

BHRA uses drone technology to monitor, map and measure major rainbow trout spawning complexes to understand how use and size of these habitats change over time and under variable flow conditions. In 2023, BHRA supplemented this study with an educational campaign aimed at reducing angler impact on Bighorn spawning trout. Using high-resolution drone footage, educational signs were created to inform anglers about when and where wild trout spawn on the Bighorn River. Signs were then placed at fly-shops and public access sites  in hopes that education, along with appreciation for the wild trout life cycle, encourages mindful casts and careful steps into the future.

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Because of you in 2023

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Because of You
Restoring Bighorn Habitat

RESTORING BIGHORN HABITAT

The Bighorn River Alliance expands and improves Bighorn River habitat by restoring connectivity between the mainstem river and its side channels. Over the years, and since the construction of Yellowtail Dam, side channels have become increasingly disconnected from the river due to vegetation encroachment and sediment accrual at channel entrances. Understanding the significant role side channels play in sustaining the fishery, BHRA commits to large-scale restoration efforts that restore the wild trout/complex habitat connection.

Following the successful reconnection of two side channels in 2021, BHRA leveraged grant funding and membership support to undertake the restoration of five additional side channels in 2023—marking the most extensive multi-side channel restoration effort on the Bighorn River to date. Adhering to survey design plans, and under the guidance of BHRA contractor Mike Sanctuary (Confluence Consulting), mechanical excavation was used to remove 3,600 cubic yards of sediment from channel heads, with additional work occurring within channel lengths to improve habitat and longevity of connection. Work was completed in the fall of 2023, bringing the total number of side channels restored by BHRA to 7, effectively increasing wild trout habitat on the Bighorn River by 3.42 miles. 


An integral aspect of multi-side channel reactivation is to assess the long-term viability of restored side channels over time, as well as quantifying the quality of habitat they provide. In 2023, BHRA implemented intense post-restoration monitoring protocol on 2 restored channels that included geomorphic assessments, flow monitoring, fish surveys, aquatic insect monitoring, and orthophotography. Results of this assessment revealed the following: 

  • Entrances of restored channels remained at, or close to, original design elevations despite record high flows in June/July.

  • Flow within restored channels did not mirror that of the main stem releases, potentially due to the influence of aquatic vegetation.

  • Snorkeling surveys conducted during the summer indicated the utilization of the restored habitat by various species and size classes of fish, with many young-of-year trout observed.​​

  • Aquatic insect densities within the side channels remained consistent with spring samples but decreased when compared to densities in the main river after the high flow event.

Moving forward, BHRA has plans to restore 4 final channels identified through the Bighorn Side Channel Reconnection Project in 2024, while simultaneously performing monitoring of channels restored in 2023. More information, including study designs and videos can be found here

Rocky Mountain interns measure flow into Juniper side channel.

Financials
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*Contributed Revenue = donations & matching gifts
*Earned Revenue = license plate sales, merchandise sales & boat raffle

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John Sindland
Board Chair

A MESSAGE FROM THE BOARD CHAIR

When I first started as BHRA board member in 2008, we had approximately forty paying members in support of our cause. I remember evenings spent at the back of the Trout Shop, stuffing envelopes with other board members, talking about what we hoped the organization would become.  


Fifteen years later, the Alliance has evolved in direct benefit to the Bighorn River of which it serves, and the members of which it represents. Led in service by a dedicated board of directors, put into action by a passionate two-person staff, and supported by nearly one-thousand members, we are proud to share the ways your financial support is used to protect and preserve the Bighorn River.  


Most of all, it is important that we remain true to our grassroot origins moving forward. As board chair, I remain committed to our mission to preserve, protect and enhance the river that we love for present and future generations. Thank you for your support which makes it all possible.

John Sindland

 you can help preserve and protect the bighorn river by exploring all the ways to give to bhra 

  •  Stock Share Transfers  helping you avoid capital gains and increasing your charitable deduction.

  •  Donor Advised Fund (DAF)  via our website or through your grant administrator.

  •  IRA Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD)  for those 701/2 and older, you can meet your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) & receive credit for a charitable contribution.

  •  Legacy Gifts  by naming BHRA as a beneficiary of your estate plan

  •  Matching Gifts  from your employer, which can double or triple your impact 

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Wild Trout Society

celebrating leading donors 

The Bighorn River Alliance expresses its gratitude to all those who supported the organization financially in 2023 and acknowledges those who increased their annual contributions through the Wild Trout Society (WTS) program. The WTS represents a committed cohort of donors who pledge a minimum of $1,000.00 each year to bolster BHRA’s general operations and research endeavors. In 2023, WTS donations accounted for over half of the BHRA annual budget. We are eternally grateful to all donors but would like to acknowledge the generous support of the below WTS members for helping us sustain our operational and programmatic function in benefit of the Bighorn River.  

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  2022 wild trout society 

$20,000 +
Sam & Barb Jampolis
$10,000 - 19,999
James & Josie Chalmers
Jim Lyon
Allen Neelley
Dee Rolph

$5,000 - 9,999
Jim Brownlie
James Greene
Holdfast Collective
Donald Jackson
& Beverlee Nelson
Jim & Chris Scott
Douglas Unruh

$2,500 - 4,999

Tim Hanks

Wink & Libba Hartman

Ryan Majerus

Harry Miller

Courtland Palmer

Mike Parnell

Randy & Alice Randolph Jr. 

Simms

Mike Stabolepszy

Dave & Barb Thomas

Michael White

$1,500 - 2,499

Carolyn Chalmers & Eric Janus
John & Michelle Chalmers
Jerry Connolly
Frank & Delores Corbett Charitable
David Cost Jr.
Bob & Terry Dickens
Mary Emery
Doug Gouge
Thomas Hansen
Ryan Hertzberg (Big Horn Valley Ranch)
Steve & J.J. Hilbers
Thomas Holtz
Mike Kelly
Steve Lerner
Matthew Nicoll
Jack & Pat Shelton
Toby Swank
Stuart & Danny Tanner
Mark & Karen Thomas
Dan Vermillion (Sweetwater Travel)
Tom Welsch & Stephanie Dubravac

$1,000 - 1,499

Brian Aamlid
Richard Allgood
Craig Armstrong
William Barrett
Brad Bischoff

Brad Boone

Pat Cathey

Shane Colton

Jay Coulter

Clay Crawford

Jeff Deter

Anne Marie Emery

Michael Engel

Paul Fitzgerald

FJ Freenor

Jacen Hamilton

Patricia Hamman

Roger Hile
Charles Jaffe
Sam & Carol Mavrakis
William McMaster
Paul Mesack
Scott & Jeff Minnich
John Morris
Bob Phillips
Larry Pollard
Edward Rossi
John & Debbie Sindland
Steven Smith
Edward Spalty
Dan Stockton Jr.
Michael & Shirley Trapp
Steve Whisler
Steven Zuckerman

Wild Trout Society
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Thank you to everyone who has shown support for the Bighorn through their contributions of ideas, concerns, and both physical and financial resources.

Thank You Donors
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2023 sponsor ($500-$999) 

Joel Alsup
David Aubrey
Peter Bachman
Bradley Benson
Paul Boero
Stephen Born
Steve Buterbaugh
J. Mike Chalmers III David Cleary

Stephen Connolly
Dave Cottengim
Tom Curlin
Chris & Jessica Dobbins
Jenny Emery Davidson
Donald F. Foley
Jim Foley
Timothy Garvin
Rick & Cheryl Gehweiler

JP Hayes
Drew Hedrick
James Holton
Eric Jacobsen
John Karpan
Gordon Keane
Raymond Kozen
G. Thomas Lang
Leo Larson

Terry Law
Marc Maassen
Dan Maher
William McDowell
Douglas McElveen
Gil Merckel
Ray Pearson
Duncan Peete
Randy Pharo

Harry Piper
Don & Elizabeth Rogers
Michael Rothfarb
Tom Scherting
Emerson Scott
Barry Selle
Paul Shibley
Floyd Smith
James Smith

Ronald Smith
Richard & Beatrice Stevens
James Summerfelt
Michael Thomas
Robert Tripicchio
Tom Walls
David Ward
Conrad Williams

2023 business ($250-$499) 

Scott Adamson

Patrick Ames

Tim Anderson

David Bashaw

Jeff Boggs

Jim Bowen

Nathan Brock

Ilene Carver

James Cherry

Carl K. Croft

Tom Curlin

Jeff Dahl

Walter Dec

Mike Dewey

Harold Dittmer

Anne Marie Emery

Nancy Emery

Kevin Erdman

Dan Fazendin

Nick Forrester

Joel Funk

Michael Gula & Terri Mauk

John Hartnett

John & Amy Hazel

Doug Hoerr

Justin Hossfeld

Robert Ingrisano

Chad Jacoby

Bradley Kastner

Jeff Kembel

Robert Kembel

Bruce Kennedy

Nick Kennedy

Andrew Kicinski

Robert Kutz

Gayle Lammers

Jim & Joyce Laughery

Rick Law

Robert Leasure

Ira Levine

Joe Loendorf

JW Maloney

Phil Martin

Cody Melgaard

Ralph Merlo

Chris Meyers

Marilyn Moffat Salant

Glen Moss

Mario Pallone

Paul & Peggy Pettit

Philip Pier

Ken Pieri

Ted Price

Sarah Rekas

Jemuel Ripley

Paul Rockar Jr.

Jerry Ryan

Robert Sahl

Patrick Schelle

Ben & Jen Shipp

Dan Short

Clark Smyth

Mark & Ashli Spencer

James Spies

Mike Stevens

Chad Svacina

Hal Tearse

Michael Thome

Chris Thoms

Neil Trask III

Steve Verrette

Dave Wales

Gregory Waterfall

Herb Webb

Sheena Wilson

Joseph Zell

2023 supporter ($100-$249) 

Allan Abshez

Patrick Akers

Bob Albright

Andrew Althoff

Steve Anderson

Dennis Armstrong

Jim Arthur

Burdick Baker

Dirk Bal Jr.

Russell Barcey

Judy Bard

Justin Barnes

Chris Basden

Richard Battistoni

Barry & Cathy Beck

James Benepe III

Jimmy Bennett

Samuel Bergman

David Best

Ashley Blake

Dave Blaschak

George Boero

Steven Bogden

Kory Boggess

Michael Boguski

Dante Bonanini

Sara Bonanini

John Bonya

Wally Bothner

Jim Bradbury

Zach Brehm

Eric Brentlinger

Todd Buchanan

Bruce Burger

Greg Burke

Bryan Burns

Ronnie Burows

Michael Buthe

Jacob Butt

Seth Byler

Paul Cannon

Jonathan Caruthers

Brian Caudle

Geoff Chalmers

Joshua Christenson

Robert Christenson

Lynch Christian

Bob Christofferson

Justin Clark

Sarah Clark

Stephanie Clifton

Curt Collins

Stephen Colodny

R.G. Colson

Hal Corbett & Katie Curtiss

Greg Cross

Jack Cumming

Jackson Curlin

Kit Darrow

Patrick Davies

Brenton Davis

Russell Davis

Kip Dean

Jurgen Degroot

Ed Delaney

Eric Devault

Tommy Devlin

Ken Diamond

Terry Dickens

Adel Dimian

Rocky Diorio

Timothy Doll

Grant Doorn

Fern Driftwood

Holland Duell

Erik Duisenberg

James Dunn

Tim Dye

Paul Dykstra

Dale E. Rumph

Eddie Edmonson

Jarrett Eggers

Steve Elsoe

Jeff Evans

Pat Evans

Mark Feigal

Jim Fellows

John Femino

Paul Finkle

Mike Fisher

John Fleisher

Andrew Forauer

Ron & Beth Ford

Adam Fornear

Dan Foss

John Fox

Michael Fox

Scott Fransen

Helen Freedus

Robert Fults

Ron Funk

Timothy Gablehouse

Robert Gardner

David Genter

Emil Gercke
Raymond "Skip" Gibson
Chad Gillespie
Josh Gimpelson
Kostas Giourtis
Vincent Goes Ahead
Doug Gouge
Holly & David Grainger
Dave Granger
Dan Gray
Barbara Green
William Griffiths
Adam Grill
Staci Grimm
Gena & Marcus Grinestaff
Lee Groom
Maureen Haller
Hale Harris
Fred Harter
John Hartnett
Cecil Hash
Matthew Hayhurst
Devon Hedin
Todd Heggestad
Wendy Heigel
Walter Heinz
Harry Hendricks
Timothy Hennessey
Euel Henry
Darin Hilliker
Terri Hogan
Mike Hoiness
Colten Holdorf
Thomas Hollingsworth
Chris Holt
Jim Holton
Brian Holum
Tom Honig
Graham Horen
Jacob Housman
Everett Hoyt
Josh Hulbert
Kevin Hunt
Ryan Hutt
LaMoyne Hyde
Charlie Johnson
David Johnson
Van Jones

Larry Kavouras

Karl Keener

Paul Kelker

George Kelly

Bob Kestner

William & Barb Kice

Marshall Kilduff

Jon Klaczkiewicz

Kramer Klaubau

Lawrence Klee

Kenneth & Marcea Kligman

Ryan Knight

Matthew Konopa

Jeff Kroeger

Tina Krueger

Bob & Carol Krumm

Toby Krutz

Richard Laird

Kevin Lapp

Grant Larsen

Sheila Law

Mike & Lucia Lee

Jason Leinbach

Mark Levin

Matt Lindley

Jeff Lindstrom

cliff linster

Ed LoCricchio

Ed Loiselle

Pat Loiselle

Benjamin Lombardozzi

Christopher Long

John Lookabill

Mike Loop

Craig Lund

Troy Lutes

Tom Lynn

Chris & Tammie Madson

Phillip Mahoney

Stephen Maksimowicz

Scott Manhart

Arthur Martin

Daniel Martin

Steve Martindale

Daniel Massaviol

Rob Mathews

Deb Mattern

Benjamin May

Allen McCall

Charles McLoughlin

Robert McQuade

Craig McVicker

Kris Miller

Robert Miller

Sandy Moffett

Ken Moore

LeaAnn Moore

Ron Moore

Phillip Morin

Greg Mueller

Dennis Mulvihill

Peggy Neale

Glen Nephin

Donna Neu

Brad Newcomb

Ron Oldaker

Seth Oppelt

Russell Pagano

Millie Paini

Philip Parr

Matt Paulson

Stuart Pavlik

Jeffrey Peete

Mark Peterson

Fritz Pierce

Jay Pillard

Dan Pirner

Tom Polinko

Ryan Poquette

Bill Powers

Rick Powers

John & Janice Przonek

Don Putnam

Peter Rajcic

Eric Rhein

Mark Rhinerson

Frederick Richards

Sydney Rick

John & Julie Riordan

Frank Roberts

John Roberts

J Stephen Roberts Sr.

Tim Rote

Eric Rudrud

Chad Rydberg

Joan Saindon

Alex & Lois Sansosti

Hank Sauer Jr.

Kellie Saville

Kristopher Schamber

Brett Schneider

Douglas Schulz

Paul Scott

Dick Seal

G. Barry Shanly

William Shipley

John & Rebecca Shirley

LS Shuman

Steve Simpson

Lance Skjeret

Oliver Snelling

Dale Spartas

Gary Spencer

Kerry Sprouse

Randy St. John

Justin Stauder

James Stavosky

Doug Stevenson

Robert Stockton

Leo Storniolo

Nick Stratos

Robert Sullivan

Stephen Sundberg

Jon Swearer

Daron Swire

Stanley Takami

Robert Tallman

William Thoms

Stuart Tiegel

Matt Trapp

Scott Trefny

Jaime Tuozzolo

Emery Udvari

Jake VanBinsbergen

Brad Vassar

Gene Wade

Richard Wall

Mark Wallace

Kirk Weinert

Ed & Sue Weinman

Karl Weyand Jr.

Jim & Cindy Wilkins

Vince Williams

Robert Wilson

Steven Wilson

Basil Witt

Dustin Woodall

Ken Wooley

Bill Woratyla

Allan Wulfstat

George Young

Dorothy Zinky

2023 Individual ($30-$99) 

Donald Albrecht

Don Alweis

Tom Anderson

Paul Ayers

Art Barz

William Beam

Tom Becker

Bill Belden

Jim Benson

George Berzonski

Brian Betta

Tom Bick

Marc Billett

William Bocks

Dan Bonanini

Albert Booble

Bryce Bowman

Gene Bratt

Ross Bricklemyer

Karl Brogren

Hunter Brown

Jack Brown

Kathy Brunner

Damian Budzinski

Craig Buehler

Bob Buhr

Donald Burkley

Mike Bush

Tyler Buterbaugh

Thomas Cantwell

David Childs

Bart Christiansen

Matthew Clawson

Paul Clemens

Rick Collins

Bryan Cormack

David Crespo

Edward Czaja

Jan Czechowski

Brian Davis

Eugene Skip Davis

Brendan Dawe

Cynthia Dawson

Hudson DeCray

Janet & David Dill

Shaun Donnellan

James Doudna

Steve Eaton

Linda Emery

Ty Fisher

Scott Frandsen

Bob Frey

Thomas Gedko

Cheryl Gehweiler

Mark Gervase

Gerry Godzwon

Jim Good

Mike Gordon

Tom Gorrell

Bob Grant

Susan Gross

Brandon Haggard

Clay Hall

Brad Harlan

Douglas Harthan

Lloyd & Lori Hautajarvi

Larry Hawkins

Darin Hilliker

Gordon Hoffner

Mike Hoiness

Mel Honda

John Hutchinson

Jack & Mary Innocenzi

Bill Jennings

Thomas Karazsia

Dave Kaucher

Gary & Reenie Kavalar

Philip Kee III

Gregory Keener

Grover Keeney

Mark Keeney

Dave Kendrick

Jim Kettler

Carter Klatt

Scott Kleven

Ken Knapp

Bette Korber

James Krewatch

Ashlee Law

 anonymous

Rob Lowe

Joe May

Joe McCreery

Paul Minetti

Carl Morehouse

Patric Nephin

Jeff Null

Kathleen O'Connor

Alfred Oertli

Blair Ogle

Dana Ono

Frank Park

James Park

Steve Patton

Robert Penland

Ian Peppel

Maynard Petersen

Tim Pinto

Ali Pistora

Van Pittack

Richard Proctor

Bill Pruitt

Sandy Rains

Darrel Reinke

Jim Reinke

Steven Rice

Bert Rosado

Gary Roulston

Thomas Rudolph

Milton Sams

Mike Sansom

Sharon Scharosch

Rodnie Schillreff

Guy Schoenborn

Liza Scott

Ty Seader

Pete Shanafelt

Hugh Sheridan

Donald & Marilyn Shurr

Mike Sikora

Stephen Skvarka

Richard Smiga

Gary & Carol Smith

Robert Smith

Thomas Sobolewski

Jamie Sonsini

Scott E. Stevenson

Walter Stevenson

Susan Suria

Chad Swanson

Tonya Taylor

Peter Templeton

Stephen Trammel

Greg Trewitt

Terry Tucker

Joe & Colter Urbani

Warren VanderHill

Bryen Eric Venema

Rick Wallace

Steven Waller

Mike Ward

John Wetherbee

Timothy Whalen

George White

Michael Williams

Reid Wood

Tony Woodward

Russell Yamanaka

Dan Zavadsky

2023 Corporate Sponsors 

Adipose Boatworks

Angling Destinations

Bighorn Fish LLC

Bighorn Fly and Tackle Shop

Bighorn River Lodge

Copy Right Printing

DeYoung Studios

Eastslope Outfitters

Forrester's Resort

Grundens

Holdfast Collective

Montana Fly Company

Patagonia

Price's Producers, Inc.

R.L. Winston Rod Co/Bauer Fly Reels

Simms

The Big Horn Sportsman's Club

Thirsty Street

Tightline Property Brokers

Yeti Coolers

 If you notice an error on this list, please contact Melissa at 406-534-2915 or melissa@bighornriveralliance.org 

ADDRESS:

3333 2nd Ave N #170

Billings, MT 59101

PHONE:

(406) 534-2915

EIN #36-5177006