North Fork Blackfoot River Westslope Cutthroat Project Online Meeting Rescheduled for July 29
By angelamontana

Posted: July 27, 2020

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) has rescheduled an online meeting for July 29 on a proposed fisheries conservation project on the North Fork Blackfoot River.  The project would establish a conservation population of native westslope cutthroat trout upstream of North Fork Falls.

The online meeting, originally planned for earlier this week, was rescheduled due to technical difficulties and will now be Wednesday, July 29, beginning at 6:30 p.m. FWP staff will be available to discuss the proposal, answer questions and take comment. The proposal is available for review and comment online through August 7 at fwp.mt.gov.

The project would first reduce the number of hybrid trout to the extent possible that are above North Fork Falls with a substance called rotenone.  The area currently contains hybridized rainbow and cutthroat trout that can outcompete native westslopes and dilute their genetics.   Rotenone is a naturally derived, commonly used substance in fish restoration efforts that is toxic to gill-breathing animals and breaks down quickly in the aquatic environment.

Native westslope cutthroat trout would then be stocked into the area over a series of three years.  The newly established native fish population would be protected from future hybridization by the natural North Fork waterfall barrier. The fish would have access to nearly 70 miles of connected stream habitat and lakes that are predicted to remain suitable cold-water habitat well into the future even as lower elevation areas in the drainage become too warm to support westslope cutthroat trout.

Westslope cutthroats are native to Montana but have experienced substantial declines in distribution and abundance throughout their historical range due to habitat degradation and hybridization with rainbow trout. FWP says the proposed North Fork project is a unique opportunity to conserve a population of westslope cutthroat trout in a secure location with significant amounts of habitat and potential to migrate, which will provide the greatest chance of long-term population persistence.

Additionally, the project would help conserve native trout in the greater Blackfoot watershed by reducing the number of hybrid trout that move downstream over the waterfall and mix with native populations.

The proposed project is located on portions of the Lolo and Lewis and Clark National Forests, and within the Scapegoat Wilderness, and the US Forest Service is involved with the project review and planning.

FWP has prepared a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposal. To review the draft EA and to comment, go to FWP’s website, fwp.mt.gov, under “News,” then “Recent Public Notices.” Or, request information and comment by contacting Region 2 FWP, 3201 Spurgin Rd., Missoula 59804; by phoning 406-542-5540; or by emailing shrose@mt.gov.  Comments must be submitted by 5p.m. on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.

Virtual Meeting Information

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FWP will host an online public meeting on the proposal on July 29, beginning at 6:30 p.m. A livestream of the meeting will be available at that time on the FWP website, fwp.mt.gov, on the page where the EA is posted.  Click on “News” and “Recent Public Notices.”

Public Comments

There will be an opportunity to provide public comments before or after the meeting by email to shrose@mt.gov; or in real-time by dialing in by phone during the public meeting portion of the agenda:

Dial +1 646 558 8656

Webinar ID: 950 7742 9907

Password: 281917

To raise your hand when you are ready to comment or ask a question, press *9, and you will be unmuted. At that time, please mute the livestream of the meeting on your computer to minimize background noise. Please state your name and where you are from before commenting or asking a question.

For questions on the online meeting, please contact FWP at 406-542-5518.

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