HELENA – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on several proposals slated to go to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in April. Comment is open through March 27. Those cover sheets and the opportunity to submit public comment electronically can be found on the commission webpage.
After public comment, commissioners can offer amendments to the proposals as they see fit. The proposals and supporting documents, any commissioner amendments available at that time and collected public comment will all be available on the commission webpage two weeks prior to the commission meeting.
The commission will make a final decision on these proposals at its meeting on April 18.
2023–2024 Fall Migratory Bird Regulations
Proposed season dates for ducks, coots, geese, and swans for 2023–2024:
- Pacific Flyway (PF) – Ducks, coots, and geese: Sept. 30 – Jan. 12, 2024 (except scaup season closing Dec. 24); Swans: Oct. 7 – Dec. 1
- Central Flyway (CF) – Ducks and coots: Zone 1 – Sept. 30– Jan. 4, 2024; Zone 2 – Sept. 30 – Oct. 8, and Oct. 21– Jan. 16, 2024 (closed 12 days, Oct. 9–20). A bonus teal season Sept. 30 – Oct. 8, in the CF will allow hunters to take two additional blue-winged teal.
- CF – Geese: Zone 1 – Sept. 30 – Jan. 12, 2024; Zone 2 – Sept. 30 – Oct. 8, 2023, and Oct. 21, 2023 – Jan. 24, 2024 (closed 12 days, Oct. 9–20); CF swans: Sept. 30, 2023 – Jan. 4, 2024 (both zones, no split season).
- Duck, coot, and goose daily and possession limits for both flyways are proposed to be the same as in 2022–2023. The special two-day Youth Waterfowl Season will be Sept. 23–24, 2023 in both flyways (PF and CF).
- Spring light goose season: March 1 – May 15, 2024, no bag limit.
Proposed season dates for “webless” migratory birds for 2023–2024:
- Mourning doves: Sept. 1 – Oct. 30. Common snipe: Sept. 1 – Dec. 16
- Rocky Mountain Population sandhill cranes (all special drawing licenses): Sept. 1 – Oct. 30
- Mid-continent sandhill cranes in CF (over the counter license): Sept. 30 – Nov. 26
Lost River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) grazing lease
FWP proposes initiating an eight-year grazing lease on the Lost River WMA starting in 2023 and ending in 2030. Grazing under this alternative would occur between May 15 and Oct. 15. Grazing on the WMA would be done using a rest-rotation grazing system that includes periods of deferment and rest. The lessee would be allowed to graze 190-220 animal units and an average of 326 animal unit months each year during this lease. The proposed grazing schedule would also include periods of yearlong rest on adjacent School Trust lands included in the grazing system, benefiting wildlife habitats beyond the WMA. Managed grazing on the WMA would help maintain the productivity and vigor of perennial grasses and forbs, promote forage palatability, and decrease fire risk by reducing litter and fuel loads. The rotational grazing would also provide heterogeneity in plant heights and densities, making habitats attractive to a diversity of species.
Property addition to Paul’s Memorial Fishing Access Site (FAS)
FWP proposes to finalize the donation of 4 acres adjacent to Paul’s Memorial FAS on Lake Five near West Glacier to alleviate crowding, congestion, safety hazards and conflict at the FAS boat ramp and improve the quality of public recreational opportunity on Lake Five. The property would be incorporated into the existing FAS and existing maintenance and enforcement schedules. No improvements are planned at this time, and any future improvements would require a separate environmental assessment.
White Bear FAS biennial seasonal closure (Region 4)
FWP recommends that the commission renew the biennial seasonal closure at White Bear FAS, on the south edge of Great Falls on the Missouri River, to be effective June to September in 2023 and 2024. Instituting a seasonal closure has proven to inhibit unlawful activities at this site.
FAS Annual Rule
FWP recommends that the commission to renew the FAS Annual Rule with no changes to allow the department time to develop consolidated public use and fee rules for all FWP sites.
To comment and for more information on these proposals, go online to fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/commission/april-2023-meeting.