Conservation Alert from Montana TU: Fish Creek

Tell Montana FWP Not to Over-Develop Fish Creek State Park!Fish Creek

WHAT:  The Parks Division of Montana FWP recently released a draft management plan for 5,600-acre Fish Creek State Park, which is located on Lower Fish Creek near its confluence with the Clark Fork River in Mineral County. The 35,000-acre Fish Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) surrounds the park on three sides. Both areas were created two years ago when FWP purchased 41,000 acres from the Nature Conservancy, which had acquired the land from Plum Creek Timber Company. The idea of turning the full acquisition into a wildlife management area was popular with the public. The idea of carving out 5,600 acres to create a state park was the brainchild of former Gov. Schweitzer’s FWP director.

FWP’S PLAN: The draft management plan ignores much of what the public told the Parks Division during a public scoping period last year. Many commenters said the park should be managed primarily for conservation of fish and wildlife because the area is popular with hunters and anglers and it adjoins a WMA.
Fish Creek is a popular recreational fishery, and is the most important tributary of the middle Clark Fork for migratory cutthroat and bull trout. Much of the park is also winter range or critical migratory habitat for other wildlife. TU members and others urged parks staff to keep development to only that which is necessary for protecting resources and existing recreational experiences. However, the plan ignored these sentiments. Among other things, it proposes:
• Constructing a 40-60 unit RV-friendly campground with full hookups, running water and power in the north-central part of the park;
• Building a hut-to-hut trail system with rental yurts and access for hikers, bikers and off-road vehicles;
• Creation of developed “backcountry” campsites that include features such as outhouses;
• Working with economic development interests to attract many more visitors to Fish Creek, especially off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts. At a recent public meeting, the second in command in the Parks Division declared that, “We view Fish Creek State Park as an OHV park.” (OHVs include ATVs, dirt bikes, snowmobiles and other motorized recreational vehicles.); and,
• Charging fees for park facilities, construction of “interpretative” facilities and restricting certain existing public activities, such as dispersed camping and hunting (near park facilities).

THE PROBLEMS: If adopted and implemented, the plan will result in increased fishing pressure on Fish Creek — which is a small, sensitive stream — and harm to watershed integrity, wintering elk and deer, migration of forest carnivores and traditional uses that Montanans have long enjoyed on lower Fish Creek. This development blueprint is being promoted before FWP has even developed a plan for the much larger, adjoining Wildlife Management Area, which will be affected by activities in the park.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  Contact FWP’s Parks Division and tell it:
1. Do not finalize a management plan for Fish Creek State Park until the agency has completed a plan for the Fish Creek Wildlife Management Area.
2. Designate the park as a “primitive park,” a designation the Montana Legislature created to protect parks with sensitive natural and cultural values from overdevelopment.
3. DO NOT promote the park as an “OHV park.”
4. Maintain the minimum development necessary to preserve public access for traditional uses, including fishing, hunting and hiking. Any development for camping, picnicking or trails should include minimal site-hardening and developed facilities, and it should minimize costs for operations and maintenance.

Comments due by Jan. 24, 2014. You can comment HERE at the Montana State Parks website.

FVTU January General Meeting

Fisheries in the Crown of the Continent – Glacier National Park

 

Quartz Lake Bull Trout collected for genetic testing

Quartz Lake Bull Trout collected for genetic testing

 

While Glacier National Park is renowned for its spectacular scenery, wildlife and hiking opportunities, the Park also supports vital populations of native fish and an active fisheries management program.

Please Join us on Jan. 21, 2014 to learn about the challenges and opportunities related to the management of the many rivers and lakes in our “backyard” national park.

At our January general meeting, Chris Downs, who assumed responsibility for managing the Parks fisheries in 2008, will provide an update on current projects underway in the Park as well as the current status of the update of the Park Fisheries Management Plan now underway. The Park is faced with many challenges including the devastating effects of invasive lake trout. On the west side of the Park, lake trout have invaded nine of twelve lakes to which they have access and are have had severe negative impacts on the survival of native fish populations. Two of the Park’s premier bull trout supporting lakes, Quartz Lake and Logging Lake, are currently at risk of losing historically robust and significant native fish populations due to invasion by nonnative lake trout.

Chris earned a B.S. in Natural Resource Management from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1990 and an M.S. in Fish and Wildlife Management from Montana State University, Bozeman in 1995. Prior to coming to work as a fisheries biologist in Glacier in 2008, Chris spent 10 years working as a Senior Fisheries Research Biologist with Idaho Fish and Game on the Kootenai River, Lake Pend Oreille and the Lower Clark Fork River.

We know this will be an interesting and informative presentation and we hope you will be able to join us. The meeting begins at 7pm at the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks conference room, 490 North Meridan in Kalispell.

Refreshments will be served, door prizes will be awarded and, as always, you don’t need to be a Trout Unlimited member to attend. Please contact Chapter President Larry Timchak at 250-7473 for additional information.

It’s a Merry Christmas on LPO

Got a note this morning on the current status of the kokanee population on Lake Pend Oreille and it looks like continued good news. As you all know, Idaho Fish and Game began netting predatory lake trout in Pend Oreille in 2006 following the crash of the kokanee population and severe drops in the numbers of native fish and Gerrard rainbow trout. Those netting efforts have shown positive results in recent years, particularly in the numbers of popular kokanee salmon. Last year was the first year since 2000 that they were able to reopen a limited fishery for kokanee. This year they did an extensive survey of the lake shore areas and they are seeing a dramatic resurgence in kokanee which can be attributed to the netting program. Here’s the report from Andy Dux of IDFG and a great chart showing the continued explosion of the kokane population.

LPO mature kokanee trend 2013I wanted to update everyone on the status of kokanee spawning in Lake Pend Oreille.  There is still some spawning activity occurring, but it is mostly completed and we have finished our annual surveys.  We had a tremendous increase in the number of spawners this year.  We estimated about 1.2 million spawners (hatchery and wild combined), which was by far the highest total since we started those estimates in 2000 (see attached graph).  The hatchery trapping also went well and we collected 11.4 million eggs, which will essentially fill the Cabinet Gorge hatchery.

Last week we finished a visual survey of the entire shoreline of the lake.  This was a more comprehensive survey than we’ve done in recent years because there finally are enough spawning fish to warrant this kind of effort.  We saw a major expansion of spawning activity from predominately the southern bays (Scenic and Idlewilde) to many shoreline areas in the southern half of the lake.  In addition, there was some spawning on the northern half of the lake, which has been rare for some time now.

Looks like a Merry Christmas indeed for fishermen on Lake Pend Oreille! Targeted netting does indeed pay off.

 

Fish The Fish Raises $15,000 for Breast Cancer Recovery

Congratulations to the Whitefish Knotty Nymyphs. Here’s the good news from their press release

Inaugural Fish the Fish Event Raises $15,000 for Breast Cancer Recovery

FVTU was there!

FVTU was there!

WHITEFISH; September X, 2013 – Hundreds attended a new community event called Fish the Fish, held August 13 at Whitefish Mountain Resort, and helped raise a whopping $15,000 for breast cancer recovery.  The funds will send 14 local women battling breast cancer to a Casting For Recovery fly fishing retreat in West Glacier.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to have such tremendous support from the Flathead community – from everyone who attended Fish the Fish to the Whitefish Knotty Nymphs who created and hosted the event,” said Whitney Milhoan, Executive Director of Casting For Recovery’s national organization and West Glacier resident. “Funding a full retreat is a significant contribution. It will have such a powerful impact on so many lives.”

Casting For Recovery is a national nonprofit that provides opportunities for women whose lives have been profoundly affected by breast cancer to gather in a natural setting and learn the sport of fly fishing. The retreats offer not just fly fishing, but fellowship, counseling, education, and networking that are invaluable supports for women battling breast cancer. This is the third year that the local program has held a retreat.

“We want thank everyone who attended Fish the Fish and made donations to see the great travel trailers and who purchased raffle tickets,” said Susan Howard, Fish the Fish coordinator and head of the Whitefish Knotty Nymphs, a local group of women who are passionate about fly fishing and meaningful causes in the Flathead. “We’re already making plans for Fish the Fish 2014 so that we can offer the community even more fun, and so we can raise even more money in the fight against breast cancer.”

Fish the Fish offered an afternoon of unique activities and entertainment to the public, including a fly fishing expo, vintage travel trailer tour, fly fishing casting competition and a raffle for significant prizes such as Spotted Bear Ranch and Lakestream Outfitters guided fly fishing trips. Fish the Fish attendees were able to tour over 60 refurbished vintage travel trailers caravanned in from all over the country by the nationally famous Sisters on the Fly, a group of over 4,000 women bonded by fly fishing and remodeling vintage trailers for their outdoor expeditions.

Direct donations to Casting For Recovery can be made at http://www.FishtheFish2013.com. For more information about Casting For Recovery visit www.castingforrecovery.org. For more information about the Whitefish Knotty Nymphs visit Facebook.

CSKT Tribal Council Recommends a Preferred Alternative

CONFEDERATED SALISH & KOOTENAI TRIBES

Natural Resources Department
Division of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation & Conservation
P.O. Box 278
Pablo, MT 59855
(406) 675-2700 extension 7299

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE       csktlogo

Contact: Germaine White —  germainew@cskt.org
Information and Education Specialist

Thursday, September 12, 2013

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Tribal Council Recommends a Preferred Alternative

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) have recommended a preferred alternative for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS): Proposed Strategies to Benefit Native Species by Reducing the Abundance of Lake Trout in Flathead Lake, Montana.

The DEIS evaluated the implementation of methods outlined in the Flathead Lake and River System Co-Management Plan (Co-plan) for non-native lake trout suppression. It presented four alternatives with differing degrees of lake trout population reduction and for each alternative, examined the potential benefits to native bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout as well as the biological, social, and economic impacts. The DEIS remains available online for informational purposes at mackdays.com.

The recommendation of the preferred alternative is the culmination of more than three years of careful analysis of current fisheries research, scientific study, and broad public scoping and comment periods, including a series of community meetings. State and federal agencies with fisheries expertise in the Flathead watershed and several renowned scientists participated in the development of the findings in the DEIS. Each alternative is designed to implement measures that increase the number of native fish in Flathead Lake and River while maintaining a recreational fishery. Alternative D is recommended as the preferred alternative.

This recommendation is consistent with direction given to the CSKT and the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission by the Flathead Reservation Fish and Wildlife Board (Board) in a letter dated September 9, 2013. The Board is made up of seven members representing the tribal and non-tribal communities and is appointed by the Tribal Chairman and the Governor. The Board has overseen this process since the adoption of the Co-Plan in 2000 and has urged that the co-managers fully implement the Co-Plan. Both public and agency comments received on the DEIS overwhelming favored the use of additional tools to reduce non-native lake trout abundance.

Alternative D provides the greatest flexibility in Flathead Lake fisheries management. The selection of this alternative does not obligate the harvest of a specific number of lake trout annually, but it rather determines that the impacts of doing so have been fully quantified. Alternative D analyzes the effects of a maximum 75% reduction of the adult lake trout population, although this target level will not be pursued unless needed. The specifics of the alternative, including timing, techniques, and personnel will be identified subsequently in a detailed implementation plan. Most importantly, the preferred alternative allows flexibility for managers as circumstances change and new information is obtained.

The public will have another opportunity to comment when the Bureau of Indian Affairs publishes the notice of availability for the Final EIS. A record of decision (ROD) will follow that comment period, and then the CSKT will begin working with co-managers, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies in the development of an implementation plan. The implementation of an adaptive management plan will ultimately guide which of the newly available suppression methods have the least by-catch of other fish species and are most compatible with the existing angler-based approaches used to balance the fishery as envisioned by the co-plan. As in the past, annual monitoring and reporting of progress under the co-plan goals will ultimately decide the level of improvement to native trout populations and the best balance for a recreational fishery.

For more information contact Tom McDonald or Germaine White at Division of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation or Conservation at (406) 883-2888.

Illegal Walleye in Noxon Reservoir

We need your help. An illegally introduced population of walleye is thriving in Noxon Reservoir. Montana FWP has made it clear that illegal introductions will not be tolerated in Montana waters and they have long opposed the introduction of walleye west of the continental divide. The agency is in the process of evaluating removal of walleye from Noxon Reservoir. They are asking for your comments and have extended the comment deadline until April 19th. Please get your comments in and support a hard line on illegal introductions. These walleye not only threaten existing popular fisheries in the reservoir, they will provide a source for additional illegal introductions west of the divide and threaten populations of trout, salmon and steelhead throughout the Columbia Basin. You can find more information in the press release from Montana Trout Unlimited below, and you can read the proposal at the FWP website.

Send your comments TODAY to Ken Breidinger at FWP at kbreidinger@mt.gov.

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Press release from Montana Trout Unlimited

Montana Trout Unlimited supports FWP proposal to reduce the population of illegally stocked walleyes at Noxon Reservoir

Missoula, MT, April 2, 2013 – In detailed comments submitted to FWP last week, Montana Trout Unlimited strongly supported the agency’s proposal to reduce the expanding population of walleyes at Noxon Reservoir on the lower Clark Fork River.

“This isn’t an issue of walleyes versus trout, which some people will claim,” says Bruce Farling, Montana TU’s executive director. “It’s actually a matter of not rewarding illegal activity, allowing professionals at FWP manage fisheries instead of bucket biologists, and conserving the robust sport fishery for bass that already exists in Noxon Reservoir. “

In its letter, Montana TU cites several reasons for supporting removal of walleyes using gillnets and other methods, including:

The presence of walleyes results from an illegal stocking. Managing them as a legitimate fishery at Noxon would incentivize walleye enthusiasts to repeat the behavior elsewhere.

Experience at waters elsewhere indicates an expanding population of walleyes will eat through the reservoir’s forage base and eventually reduce numbers of important sportfish, such as largemouth and smallmouth bass, which currently support thousands of angler-days as well as popular tournaments.

Predation posed by walleyes will threaten the multi-million dollar investment Idaho and Montana’s fish and wildlife departments, as well as local utilities are making in restoring migratory populations of cutthroat trout and bull trout in the lower Clark Fork region.

Walleyes are already drifting from Noxon into the very lower Clark Fork and Lake Pend Oreille, threatening existing populations of important species such as kokanee salmon, large rainbow trout and bull trout.

“Not only does the presence of walleyes threaten existing fisheries,” Farling says, “but in the end experience at other reservoirs in and outside Montana indicate that if their numbers are left to expand the result will be lousy fishing for the current species people target and a bunch of stunted walleyes. No interest will be ahead in the end.  Some folks don’t understand that there is only so much room and so much food in that reservoir, and not everything can be accommodated. Walleyes really tip the scale.”

               Montana FWP is accepting comments until April 19 on the EA it developed for potentially suppressing walleyes at Noxon Reservoir.

Montana Trout Unlimited, which is 50-years-old this year, represents 3,500 conservation-minded anglers statewide, with about half living west of the Continental Divide. For more information contact Bruce Farling at bruce@montanatu.org or at 406-543-0054.