Hearings next week for Upper Bitterroot and West Fork
By Moosetrack Megan


Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is seeking comment on proposed administrative rules and an associated draft environmental assessment (EA) for the Upper Bitterroot River and West Fork, designed to address concerns about quality of river experience.

FWP will hold public hearings, beginning next week, to explain the proposed rules and draft EA, answer questions, and take public comment:

  • Missoula: October 2, 6 p.m., FWP Region 2 Headquarters (3201 Spurgin Road)
  • Hamilton: October 3, 6p.m., Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor’s Office (1801 North First Street)
  • Butte:  October 10, 6p.m., FWP Butte Area Resource Office (1820 Meadowlark Lane)

The popularity of the Bitterroot River has contributed to growing public concern related to congestion and balance of public and commercial use.  In response, FWP conducted surveys and established a citizen advisory committee, under the guidance of a statewide river rules process, to assess and develop recommendations for managing recreation.

Last month, the Fish and Wildlife Commission used these recommendations to approve proposed administrative rules, now out for public review through October 13.  The rules would restrict recreational and commercial use on the Upper Bitterroot River, from the East and West Fork confluence downstream to Wally Crawford, and on the entire West Fork below Painted Rocks Dam.

The rules, if approved, would cap the total number of fishing and float operators and outfitters on these stretches of river and require commercial use permits and annual reporting. The number of commercial floats would be limited to two per outfitter per day in a designated river section.  There would be a non-commercial day for each section, and no floating (commercial or private recreation) would be allowed on Fridays from Painted Rocks Dam to Applebury Forest Service Access Site.

In addition to the proposed rule language, FWP drafted an environmental assessment (EA) analyzing the impacts of the proposed rules.

To review the entire rule proposal and EA and to comment, go to FWP’s website, fwp.mt.gov, under “News,” then “Recent Public Notices.” Or, request information or comment by mail from Region 2 FWP, 3201 Spurgin Rd., Missoula 59804; by phoning 406-542-5540; or by emailing shrose@mt.gov.  Comments must be received by FWP no later than 5p.m. on October 13, 2017.

For specific questions on the proposed rules and draft EA, contact Chrissy Oschell, FWP Region 2 River Recreation Manager by phone at 406-542-5562 or email coschell@mt.gov.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will review public comment and make a final decision on the proposed rule language at its regularly scheduled meeting, December 7-8, 2017, in Helena.






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