Public Comment Deadline For Several Proposals Is Feb. 3

Fish and Wildlife Commission to meet Feb. 22

Helena - Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on several proposals slated to go to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in February. Comment is open through Feb. 3.

After public comment, commissioners can offer amendments to the proposals as they see fit. The proposals and supporting documents, commissioner amendments and collected public comment are available on the FWP website.

The commission will make a final decision on these proposals at its meeting on Feb. 22.

Fish removal projects for 2023-2026

For 2023‐2026, there are 26 fish removal projects planned that have not previously been approved by the commission, all intended for native species conservation. There may be additional projects brought separately to the commission for approval, such as instances where illegal introductions or invasive species are discovered or for an unexpected conservation need. Proposed projects include a combination of chemical and mechanical removals.

Future Fisheries Improvement Projects, winter 2023 funding cycle

For the winter 2023 funding cycle, the Citizen Review Panel recommends funding 10 of 11 submitted proposals at a program cost of $471,419.50. Matching funds total $2.1 million and other contributions total $380,000, producing a ratio of $5.3 in external contributions to every $1 of FFIP funding.

paddlefish regulation proposed change for Intake Bypass Channel

The Intake Fish Bypass Channel, at Intake Diversion Dam on the Yellowstone River, was completed in April 2022. Objectives for the project are to improve upstream and downstream fish passage for pallid sturgeon and other native species, including paddlefish, while maintaining water diversions into the Lower Yellowstone Project Main Canal. Snagging for paddlefish is very popular in the lower Yellowstone and can lead to high concentrations of anglers targeting paddlefish during spawning migrations. Since it is not yet fully understood how the fish bypass channel will influence fish movements and angler behavior, the department proposes closing the bypass channel to snagging to avoid bycatch of migrating pallid sturgeon and other native species. Closing the bypass to snagging could also reduce potential conflicts between paddlefish anglers and FWP monitoring crews. The bypass channel will remain open for passage by boats and for angling by other methods.

Upper Missouri River Reservoirs 2022 regulation changes

Monitoring surveys in 2021 and 2022 found that yellow perch abundance in Holter Reservoir was well above management goals. For yellow perch management, the plan recommends more liberal fishing regulations when abundance increases above goal range. To maximize yellow perch fishing opportunity while minimizing the impact to the population, the department is proposing to change the Holter Reservoir harvest regulation for yellow perch from 25 daily and in possession to 25 daily and 50 in possession.

In the river section from Toston to Canyon Ferry, monitoring has shown stable walleye abundance, but size structure is comprised primarily of large fish. In the river section, the department proposes to modify the current regulation of 10 daily, only one over 15 inches, to the Central Fishing District standard regulation of five walleye per day, 10 in possession. The current regulation, which only allows harvest of one fish over 15 inches, is unnecessarily restrictive and there is no biological reason to restrict walleye harvest to this extent. In addition, the standard walleye limit for the Central Fishing District has the advantage of being simple and easy to implement.

Bear Creek Angus Conservation Easement restatement

Since 1994, FWP has held a conservation easement (CE) on the Bear Creek Angus Ranch. A restatement in 2000 and 2001 separated this easement into four portions, one of which is the Bear Creek Ostler Portion. This portion represents 768 acres adjacent to the Bear Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The current CE terms allow for four building envelopes which total 40 acres, three of which allow for residential site development. Two of the residential building envelopes currently have houses on them, the third is a 5‐acre envelope adjacent to the Bear Creek WMA and currently has no structures on it. The current CE also contains an agricultural subdivision clause, which allows the property to be divided and sold to separate owners. This proposal, which was brought to FWP by the landowners, would allow the landowners to remove from the CE and sell 1 acre with an existing residential house and outbuildings. In exchange, they would reduce the current size of building envelopes from 40 acres to 16.5 acres, preserving 23.5 acres for wildlife habitat. The proposal also includes removing from the CE an option for a 5‐acre building envelope next to Bear Creek WMA, which is consistently used by wintering elk and deer, and removing language related to agricultural subdivision, ensuring the property would remain as one ownership unit into the future. This proposal would not involve any monetary exchange between the parties.

Otter Creek LLS Islands -- expansion of Indian Fort Fishing Access Site on the Yellowstone River

FWP proposes to acquire two land parcels totaling 107 acres that are part of an island complex in the Yellowstone River upstream of Reed Point. FWP plans to preserve them in a natural state and to provide recreational access using $140,150 in Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) mitigation funds resulting from the 2011 Silvertip Oil Spill. This site is adjacent to the Indian Fort Fishing Access Site and four river miles below Bratten Fishing Access Site (FAS). The islands are in a reach of the Yellowstone that FWP considers high priority for additional public access. The NRDP funding may be used to secure unprotected cottonwood riparian areas to allow for natural function of river processes and recruitment of large woody debris – typically cottonwoods – to the river during floods. This natural function builds islands and provides habitat for terrestrial and aquatic species. The landowner approached the NRDP with a desire for the parcels to be sold to an entity that would preserve the sites to support natural river function and provide public access.

Wildlife Management Area public use rules

The commission has adopted public use rules biennially, and more recently, annually for FWP lands specifically acquired for the purpose of providing effective fish and wildlife habitat. Those department lands comprise Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), Wildlife Habitat Protection Areas, and Fisheries Conservation Areas. Rules adopted on a regular schedule are referred to as “seasonal rules” and in this proposal would serve as the public use rules for calendar year 2023. The purpose of these rules is to manage public uses while protecting fish and wildlife habitats. FWP is also currently working on public use Administrative Rules (ARM 12.8.201‐ 12.8.219), revising and combining into one public use rule set for all types of department lands. The revised ARM rules are scheduled to be completed by fall 2023 for 2024 implementation.

To comment and for more information on these proposals, go online to


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