Fly-fishing guide Hilary Hutcheson grew up fishing and rafting in northern Montana, in the cold mountain rivers and streams near Glacier National Park.
“It’s this wonderful place full of a lot of great water,” she says.
But as the climate warms, shrinking glaciers and declining snowpack are reducing the flow of meltwater into those rivers and streams.
About 50 years ago, there were 35 named glaciers in the national park. When Hutcheson started her career in the 90s, about 30 glaciers remained.
“And now … the USGS is saying about two dozen,” she says. “So significant change over the time that I’ve been guiding and kind of a weird thing to be able to watch and see happen in front of your own eyes.”
With fewer glaciers providing meltwater, rivers and streams are getting shallower and warmer.
Hutcheson says that could threaten fish habitat and hurt the state’s multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry.
So to help protect Western rivers, Hutcheson has testified to Congress about the changes she’s seeing.
And she works to raise awareness among her clients and the public about how human-caused warming is transforming the region that she grew up in — and that so many love.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media