Yellowstone River exhibit opens at library

A traveling exhibit designed to educate the public about water rights has opened at the Miles City Public Library.

“Who Owns the Yellowstone River?” That’s the title of the display, and the question was asked and answered by Dr. Bruce Wendt’s junior history class at Billings West High School.

The class created the display, which has a permanent home in the Western Heritage Center in Billings. It’s been on the road since late March with help from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), visiting public libraries along the river from late March through mid-June.

The students conducted interviews of various stakeholders, and designed short videos and 10 posters that reflect opinions and thoughts from the interviews.

The exhibit includes facts about the Yellowstone River, emotional connections to the river, ecology, historic use, threats to the river, challenges along the river, governance, and how to preserve Montana’s unique water heritage. It provides an opportunity to see and hear water users’ thoughts and ideas from agricultural, residential, recreational and civic perspectives.

Haley Heitz, one of the student creators, said, “I learned that the Yellowstone isn’t owned by anyone but still has a lot of ownership, which makes a fuzzy line.”