Rational, scientific management of the Clark Fork River is critical to maintain and enhance the quality and viability of its natural resources while permitting many different (sometimes conflicting) uses. The Clark Fork is many things to us--the life blood of western Montana, nourishing and uniting the watersheds and communities of our region as our own blood nourishes and unites our bodies. Suffering from the mine wastes, channelization, damming, dewatering, disturbed watersheds and other stresses, the river is a symbol of man's abuse of his environment. Yet, like the Phoenix, it is also a symbol of how a natural system can be healed and regain some of its former vitality. The Clark Fork is also a vast natural laboratory where we investigate the life of a river and its interactions with the systems of man.
In 1985, growing interest in using scientific research as a basis for rational management of the Clark Fork resulted in the convening of a symposium (Carlson and Bahls, 1985). Between 1985 and 1990 the river was the subject of considerable scientific research and management, hence a second Clark Fork symposium was convened to present and evaluate those efforts and to propose goals and directions for future research and management. Both symposia were well attended by the interested public as well as by scientists and managers. The symposia provided some answers but raised many new questions about this complex natural system. The river will continue to change through natural processes and in response to development and restoration efforts. Hence regular public conferences to update our understanding and to evaluate the effects of our actions are an essential part of managing our river basin.
Vicki Watson, Symposium Organizer and Proceedings Editor