Kayhan Ostovar, associate professor of environmental science and biology, 406.657.1175, 
RMC Media Team, 406.657.1105,  

Photo caption: In 2013, students and coworkers hauled over 3.5 tons of trash from the Yellowstone River (credit YRRC). 

YRRC Yellowstone River CleanupYellowstone River Research Center annual cleanup builds on success

BILLINGS, August 25, 2014 – Since 2007, faculty and students from environmental programs at Rocky Mountain College have partnered with local public and private organizations to clean trash from the Yellowstone River, the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48 states. 

The effort Saturday, September 13, will float the Yellowstone River through the heart of Billings, from the Duck Creek fishing access past Riverfront Park and the South Hills to Coulson Park. 

Community partnerships and Rocky Mountain College students have built the annual daylong cleanup of the banks of the Yellowstone into serious trash removal. 

In 2013, river floaters partnered with shore-based volunteers to remove more than 3.5 tons (7,200 pounds) of metal from the river, from rusted car parts to the poisonous metals encased in several cell phones.

“Each year we have more volunteers join us on this project. This shows us just how much our community cares about this resource,” said Kayhan Ostovar, director of the Yellowstone River Research Center and associate professor at Rocky Mountain College. The center provides matching funds for student research in the Yellowstone watershed and requires student researchers to perform community service, such as the annual river cleanup.

That sense of responsibility and care for the watery lifeblood of the region sustains student commitment. “The last few years have been a great success in the number of volunteers and the weight of metal, copper, and plastic pulled off the shores of the Yellowstone River,” said Blake Brightman (’15) of Ellisville, Mo, a member of the Environmental Club at RMC. 

RMC offers majors in environmental science, environmental policy and management, and environmental studies. Professors Megan Poulette, David Strong, and Luke Ward also join the cleanup to get to know students outside the classroom at the beginning of the semester. “The river cleanup is a great way to connect with the local landscape,” said Ward. “For some students, the cleanup is the first time they’ve ever been in a canoe, much less done community service. By the end of the float, they’re sometimes a bit damp and tired, but they’re smiling. You can see that they have gained confidence on the water and, I think, a taste for community service.”

This year the Royal Bank of Canada Blue Water Project Community Action Grant is the primary sponsor, alongside longtime sponsors Montana Wilderness Association, Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare, ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks, the Bureau of Land Management, and Scheels Sports. Employees of several sponsors volunteer alongside the RMC students.

“The cleanup is a great way to diminish humans’ environmental impacts on the natural landscape of Billings,” said Simone Durney (’14). “It’s fun to meet and collaborate with people interested in maintaining a healthy landscape in the Billings area.”