Last Saturday we had the new Director of Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks join us on the Montana Outdoor Radio Show. Williams who is the 24th Director of FWP was picked by Governor Bullock after Jeff Hagener resigned a little over a month ago. Williams has a background in law not wildlife biology so it might be surprising to hunters and anglers that she was chosen to lead an agency with over 700 employees across the state, “I think that leading FWP is not always about biology it’s about being able to use the biology to pull together an incredible team of employees and reach out to different constituents across the state”, she said. Williams says she loves to spend time in the outdoors and readily admits that she needs to get out shooting more and hunting more as she is still looking to bag her first elk.
Williams also loves to spend time on the rivers fishing for trout and told us that her favorite fish to eat is surprisingly smoke whitefish. Getting more public access for hunting and recreation is one of the top items on her agenda, “I would like FWP to be active in negotiating better access or in acquiring a piece of land, but even more important not giving up any access that we currently have in place”. Funding FWP and the State Parks of course is a major concern at this point and not surpisingly after being on the job since February 1st Williams does not have any easy answers, “ I don’t have any answers yet but we are beginning to have some meaningful conversations concerning funding with some folks and hopefully some answers will come out of those conversations”.
Williams wants FWP to respond to issues and get ahead of issues, “I think that we can accomplish this by empowering our biologists or wardens and people on the ground that are doing such creative good work, at the same time we also have to be held accountable”. The elk shoulder season ended February 15th and Williams told us that she doesn’t know how successful or unsuccessful it has been but she did say participation from hunters and landowners was good, “we don’t have the final results yet but we will compile all the detailed information to see if it was successful in reducing the elk populations that were identified In the hunting districts that the season was held”. Invasive mussels were detected late last year in Canyon Ferry and Tiber Dam, as a result FWP closed both bodies of water to boats in November. The closures were lifted for ice anglers so we asked Williams if she thought the lakes would be closed to boats when open water returned in spring, “ we will be putting in inspection and decontamination stations on both lakes so with those in place we don’t anticipate closing those waters”.
Williams anticipates the state parks to stay within FWP and she wants parks to feel part of the agency. Finding long term funding for state parks will be important in accomplishing that goal according to Williams. To hear the complete interview with Martha Williams, click here.
(Written by Mark Ward – aka The Captain)