Conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited are usually opponents of irrigation dams, which help farmers and block the free flow of rivers.

But in the case of the Ruby dam — and similar projects across the West — conservation groups are helping to finance dam rehabilitation with an environmental component.

In Colorado, the Nature Conservancy helped obtain $13.2 million for the Elkhead Reservoir on the Yampa River. In Idaho, Trout Unlimited obtained a $375,000 grant for conservation measures for a dam project on the Snake River.

“We are trying to get out of the fish vs. farmer box,” said Laura Ziemer, director of Trout Unlimited’s Montana water project.

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