Decision notice for Smith River management plan updates
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: February 4, 2022

GREAT FALLS – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has issued a final Decision Notice on a Nov. 10 Environmental Assessment (EA) that considered management updates to the 2009 Smith River State Park and Smith River Corridor Management Plan.

Comments on the EA were accepted from Nov. 10 through Dec. 15, 2021, and a total of 104 comments were received via email, mail and an online survey. To help foster awareness and education of planning issues, FWP also held two public informational sessions over Zoom on Dec. 1 and 7. Additionally, an 11-member Smith River Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) assisted FWP staff by providing important planning perspectives and feedback.

“The Smith River is a Montana treasure. In this process, we worked hard to carefully balance the considerations of recreationists with the need to protect the resource,” said Hope Stockwell, Administrator of FWP’s Parks and Outdoor Recreation Division. “We appreciate the valuable feedback the public provided and will work diligently to update the management plan in the coming months to reflect the outcomes, keeping the public engaged as the work unfolds.”

The process of updating the 2009 Smith River Management Plan began last summer with a focus on four primary management issues that were addressed in the EA:

  1. Management of Camp Baker
  2. Human waste management
  3. Natural and cultural resource impacts
  4. Floater opportunities

Rulemaking is needed to implement some of the management actions identified in the Decision Notice. FWP will propose two rule changes to the Parks and Recreation Board at its March 3, 2022, meeting: (a) permanently establishing Camp Baker as day-use-only from Dec. 1 through Aug. 31 and continuing floater sign-in initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic; and (b) requiring floaters to pack out human waste beginning with the 2023 float season using a department approved toilet system.

In the future, FWP will consider developing a set of management tools that could be utilized to address negative impacts on natural and cultural resources in the river corridor and at boat camps. During the 2022 float season, staff will monitor and evaluate conditions to assess where changes may be needed. On the topic of floater opportunities, FWP will explore the development of methods that could be used to increase opportunities for those who have not recently (or ever) floated the Smith River.

Information pertaining to the Parks and Recreation Board, including meeting details, can be found on the FWP website: https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/parksandrecreationboard.

Copies of the Decision Notice are available for public review on the FWP webpage:  https://fwp.mt.gov/stateparks/smith-river/management.

Please direct questions to Smith River State Park Manager Colin Maas at 406-454-5857 or cmaas@mt.gov.