In an article we published a few weeks ago, entitled How Clean is Your Stream? Ask the Grayling, we detailed a bit of the unfortunate history of the fluvial arctic grayling. This history is that has seen such grayling wiped out from their entire former range in the U.S. lower 48, save for one watershed: Montana's Big Hole River. That article also covered, in brief, the efforts of the state of Montana to encourage ranch owners in a 338,000 acre area of the Big Hole watershed to voluntarily take steps that would improve water quality, such as reducing irrigation withdraws and improving riparian habitat. Those efforts and the accompanying cooperation by ranch owners in the target area appears to be paying off, helping the Big Hole's remaining grayling population make it through some very low water conditions in recent years, according to a recent article in the Montana Standard.
Montana state fishery biologists have described the cooperation of ranchers as incredible, noting how reduced water withdraws by the program participants have kept more water in the river and resulted in more areas for grayling and other fish to seek thermal refuge during these years of extremely low water conditions. Ranchers have sought alternative water sources in their area, such as other small creeks and rivers, and in general are trying to do more with less in order to keep as much water as possible in the Big Hole. Also of note is the overwhelming rate of cooperation by ranch owners, with over 90 percent of the ranches whose water usage would affect the Upper Big Hole participating in the project.