HELENA – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on proposals for mountain lion quotas and special limited licenses, trumpeter swan reintroductions, new Rainbow Lake fishing regulations, and pheasant releases.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will make a final decision on these proposals at its June 23 meeting. Under the new commission process, FWP is taking public comment on these proposals now and will present the collected comments and proposals to the commission for review. Commissioners can offer amendments to the proposals as they see fit. The proposals and supporting documents, commissioner amendments, and collected public comment will be available on the FWP website two weeks prior to the commission meeting.
To comment, go online to https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/commission/meeting
2022-2023 mountain lion quotas and special limited licenses
Mountain lion harvest quotas and permit numbers are based on commission direction, recommendations from the Northwest Lion Ecoregional Population Objective Committee (LEPOC), research, surveys, harvest and mortality data, and public comment. Fall season structure (archery and season without hounds) are unchanged from last year. Winter seasons allow the use of hounds, but harvest is allocated, in accordance with commission direction, between limited special mountain lion licenses that will be awarded through the lottery draw and unlimited special mountain lion licenses that are governed by quotas or subquotas by sex. Quotas apply to “any legal lion” unless otherwise noted and as influenced by subquotas.
Middle Madison valley trumpeter swan reintroductions during 2022 through 2026
Reintroduction of captive-raised trumpeter swans into suitable nesting areas is a proven management tool in Montana and neighboring states. FWP has released trumpeter swans since 2012 and is seeking commission approval to continue releases for 2022 through 2026. Wildlife staff will conduct an environmental assessment (EA) to document effects of continuing releases in the middle Madison River valley to re-establish breeding in areas where extensive habitat restoration has been ongoing since 2005. Trumpeter swans would be obtained from the Wyoming Wetland Society facility in Jackson, which has provided swans for release in the Flathead-Mission and Blackfoot valleys of Montana. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has approved these releases, and the program adheres to the Pacific Flyway genetic restrictions for Rocky Mountain population origin. Primary funding for the proposed program will be from conservation agencies and organizations, private individuals, and foundations.
Trumpeter swans historically nested in western Montana valleys but were extirpated during European settlement. The Madison project is embedded into a larger flyway goal to increase connectivity and augment the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population.
Following the completion of the EA, the department will request the commission authorize the release of about five swans yearly from 2022-2026.
Removal of all bag limits on Rainbow Lake in northwest Montana
The Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the Rainbow Lake fish removal project during the December 2021 commission meeting. The Rainbow Lake removal project involves depopulating the fishery which is predominantly composed of non-native Yellowstone cutthroat trout with the subsequent restocking of native westslope cutthroat trout. This is an important area for westslope cutthroat trout recovery and the project will protect downstream westslope areas. Fisheries staff are currently preparing the environmental assessment for the proposed project. Fish removal is expected to proceed as soon as Aug. 15. Removing all bag limits on the lake prior to treatment allows the public an opportunity for unlimited harvest prior to the lake being depopulated.
Pheasant releases for recruiting and retaining hunters
In the 2021 Legislature, House Bill 637 authorized FWP to spend up to $1 million each fiscal year for a pheasant-stocking program with the intention of recruiting and retaining hunters. To that end, the department conducted an environmental assessment of potential impacts of the program and issued a decision notice in support of the pheasant-stocking program. FWP is seeking final approval for a five-year period, calendar years 2022 through 2026, to release pen-raised pheasants on state-owned lands within suitable pheasant habitat for recruitment and retention efforts. Montana Correctional Enterprises (MCE) is implementing the pheasant-raising program for the department, including biosecurity protocols that go above and beyond what is required to keep their flock healthy. FWP is mindful of the current spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza and both MCE and FWP will follow any additional guidance wildlife health experts deem necessary.
To make a comment
Comments will be accepted online at https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/commission/meeting in writing sent to the address above, and by email to:
Comments on will be accepted until Wednesday, May 19, at 5 p.m. Comments will also be taken on proposals and any commissioner amendments at the June 23 commission meeting.