By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: August 7, 2021

HELENA – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will soon begin work to update the 2009 Smith River State Park and River Corridor Recreation Management Plan. The plan has served the public and the department well over the years, but a number of management issues have evolved, and warrant a fresh look.

Management issues to be addressed in the plan include:

  • Managing use at Camp Baker and deciding whether to discontinue camping there on a permanent basis
  • Instituting a system for human waste pack-out consistent with legislative direction
  • Examining the permit lottery system to assess options for increasing the odds of people who consistently apply but are unable to draw a permit
  • Implementing resource protection measures to mitigate further deterioration of boat camps and riverbank landings

“The Smith River is a true Montana treasure and updating our management plan to consider increased use and impacts is critical to keeping the natural and cultural heritage of the park intact for future generations,” said FWP director Hank Worsech. “We look forward to gathering input from the public.”

Smith River State Park is a popular floating destination. Trips are allocated through a drawing system, and trip applications continue to increase as do the average number of people in each float group. In 2020, visitation was at an all-time high despite being closed until May 5. The permit lottery drew in 10,866 applications that year, and in 2021 attracted 15,160 applications. This increased use has put pressure on infrastructure as well as the significant natural, cultural, and historic resources that FWP is charged with protecting.

As a first step in updating the recreation management plan, FWP is seeking input from former members of the Smith River Advisory Council and others serving on the new Smith River Planning Advisory Committee (PAC). The PAC members will advise the department on potential management changes. FWP is also conducting outreach to tribal representatives. Once initial feedback on core management issues is received, an environmental assessment will be prepared for public consideration. The Parks & Recreation Board will adopt a final plan based on input from the public and the PAC.

The first of three PAC meetings took place in July, and the planning process is expected to conclude in early 2022. Rulemaking may be needed to implement some aspects of the new plan, most of which would likely occur during the 2023 float season.

To learn more about the planning process and opportunities to get involved, please visit the Smith River Management Plan web page at fwp.mt.gov/stateparks/smith-river/management. For more information, contact Region 4 Information and Education Program Manager Dave Hagengruber at 406-454-5845 or dhagengruber@mt.gov.

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