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And the 2023 Community Star Award goes to...

Bright n’ Beautiful Presents 2023 Community Star Award to Yellowstone River Cleanup Crew

 Group honored for record-breaking 17th Annual Yellowstone River Cleanup


Billings, January 26, 2024: Bright n’ Beautiful, the Keep America Beautiful affiliate for Yellowstone County, is proud to announce that the Yellowstone River Cleanup team, under the direction of Rocky Mountain College’s Yellowstone River Research Center (YRRC), is the recipient of the 2023 Bright n’ Beautiful Community Star Award. The annual Community Star Award was created by Bright n’ Beautiful in 2018 to recognize people in the community who have made an outstanding contribution to the beauty and well-being of Yellowstone County in the previous year.


The Yellowstone River Cleanup has been a laudable community event for years. Bright n’ Beautiful is recognizing this past year’s 17th Annual Yellowstone River Cleanup, which covered an area from Reed Point to the Bighorn River. With 74 volunteers (ranging in age from 12 to 86) the team set a record in total weight of unwanted materials removed from the Yellowstone in a single year. The haul included 390 tires and totaled 50,363 lbs.—over twenty-five tons.


The 2023 River Cleanup was led by the Yellowstone River Research Center and powered by volunteers from local organizations including Rocky Mountain College, the Yellowstone River Parks Association, Our Montana, Zoo Montana, Undammed Distilling, Billings Clinic Foundation, and the Retired Smokejumpers Club. Primary sponsors this year were Sibanye Stillwater Mine and Wheaton Precious Metals. Some volunteers worked all year long, identifying and targeting debris for removal and staging piles of trash along the shore to be collected on the large community float day. These efforts culminated in an impressive float on September 9th, covering Duck Creek to Blue Creek, and featured a flotilla of drift boats, rafts, canoes and kayaks, spilling over with recyclable and waste material.


Kayhan Ostovar, Director of the Yellowstone River Research Center started the cleanup project with just six people and three canoes. It has since grown to about 75 volunteers, 32 different organizations, and over 115 tons of recyclable material, trash, and tires pulled out of the Yellowstone over the last 17 years.


Professor Ostovar reflects on the group’s accomplishments, “It is inspiring to help create a stewardship ethic in our college community which is truly making a lasting difference in the longest free-flowing river in the US. We have accomplished a lot with limited resources and dedicated volunteers, and have bigger plans for the next few years. We hope to see you on the river.”



About the Annual Yellowstone River Cleanup

The YRRC and partner organizations celebrate the Yellowstone River Cleanup annually on the second Saturday of September; in 2024 it is set for September 14th. Each year there are more volunteers joining this project (on the river float or shore-based teams), which shows just how much our community cares about this precious natural resource. Interested in taking part in 2024? Contact Kayhan Ostovar, Professor of Environmental Science at Rocky Mountain College and YRRC Director: 


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