FWP Proposes Property Acquisition on Flathead Lake to Increase Public Access
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: July 10, 2020

Kalispell, MT — With the goal of increasing public access to one of the most popular lakes in the state, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking approval to purchase nearly 15 acres for a Fishing Access Site.

The undeveloped property is one mile east of Dayton off U.S. Highway 93 along the western shores of Flathead Lake. The property contains 650 feet of shoreline that would provide public access for boating and non-boating recreational use, such as swimming, fishing, and picnicking. FWP has preliminary proposed development plans that would include access roads, parking areas, a boat ramp, dock, vault latrine, signage, boundary fencing and a host campsite. The proposed site would be open for day-use only.

Following the Statewide Fisheries Management Program and Guide, FWP continues to pursue opportunities to increase access on popular water bodies, such as Flathead Lake, where user numbers are increasing to levels above the capacity of existing sites. Currently, 89 percent of the shoreline of Flathead Lake, excluding islands, is in private ownership. Any additional public access opportunity on the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River would be very popular. This site would help ease pressure on other busy boat launches on Flathead Lake. The proximity of the proposed site to Wild Horse Island also makes it a desirable launching point.

Flathead Lake provides a popular recreational fishery, and in 2017 the fishery supported approximately 42,195 angler days.

Flathead Lake is also very popular with recreational (non-angling) boaters, including motorized and non-motorized watercraft. Shore-based activities such as picnicking, swimming, photography and wildlife viewing are also very popular along the shoreline. Public access to the lake and shoreline is in high demand. Recreational activity on Flathead Lake generates a considerable amount of economic activity in nearby communities. According to Jan Stoddard of the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development, Flathead Lake is one of Montana’s most important water recreation assets.

The current owners of this property have long been interested in selling to a public agency for public access and conservation and are willing to sell below appraised value. The owners have been working with the Montana Outdoor Legacy Foundation to sell the property to the non-profit organization, which would bridge the sale in anticipation of FWP’s purchase of the property pending legislative and funding authorizations.

The proposal is out for public comment starting July 11 and running through 5 p.m., Aug. 9, 2020. Written input can be emailed to tpowell@mt.gov, or mailed to Mattson FAS/Property Acquisition, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 490 N. Meridian Rd, Kalispell, MT 59901. Or call 406-752-5501.

The draft environmental assessment is posted online at http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/.