FWP proposes purchase of Yellowstone River Islands for fishing access site
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: December 17, 2020

BILLINGS – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is proposing that it buy two islands in the Yellowstone River east of Reed Point for a fishing access site and to fulfill a need for woody debris and wildlife habitat removed during cleanup of the July 1, 2011, ExxonMobil Pipeline Company oil spill at Laurel.

The 45 acres of islands currently are owned by the Montana Department of Transportation, which acquired them when it bought out a ranch as part of a plan to abandon an old bridge across the Yellowstone River. Under the proposal, FWP would buy the islands with $54,050
from the Department of Justice Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP).

NRDP was funded through a settlement with Exxon Mobil Pipeline Company following the July 1, 2011, rupture of petroleum pipe under the Yellowstone River at Laurel. During cleanup of the spill, crews altered riverside wildlife habitat and removed large woody debris – primarily downed cottonwood trees. Such debris is responsible for creating and maintaining islands and other natural structures that form a healthy, meandering river. Under the proposal, the islands would remain undeveloped. In addition to providing an opportunity to create large woody debris, the purchase would leave island wildlife habitat intact.

This week FWP issued an environmental assessment for public comment by Jan. 13, 2021. The full environmental assessment is available online at: http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/environmentalAssessments/acquisitionsTradesAndLeases/pn_0258.html.

Comments may be emailed to fwpregion5pc@mt.gov with a subject line of “Cottonwood Island FAS” or by phone to 406-247-2961. They also may be mailed to:

Mike Ruggles

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks

2300 Lake Elmo Drive

Billings, MT 59105