COMMENT NOW - The Fish Creek Watershed Draft Recreation Strategy

Speak up for quality hunting and fishing opportunities and productive fish and wildlife habitat in the Fish Creek watershed. Deadline to comment is October 20th.


Right now, Montana FWP is collecting feedback on their proposal to manage growing recreation demands in the Fish Creek area west of Missoula. The Fish Creek Watershed Draft Recreation Strategy outlines three stages of proposals that would (re)define recreational use in Fish Creek for at least the next ten years.

Montana BHA has been involved early and often in the multi-stakeholder planning process that led to this draft strategy, and we appreciate the work that's already gone into this effort. That said, there are many things to like about the draft strategy, and some proposals that we take issue with. To read our full comment letter, click here.

We encourage you to look at the draft strategy yourselves and provide comments to FWP before the October 20th deadline.

If helpful, here are some items we encourage you to consider working into your comments. Please use your own words, let FWP know how you use the area, and how you'd like to see recreation managed in the future.

  1. Within the borders of the Fish Creek Wildlife Management Area, wildlife and wildlife habitat should take priority, even if this means limiting recreational opportunities.

  2. Existing motorized loops should be preserved, however better signage marking them as such is needed, though no new motorized routes should be created or sanctioned. Signage should also include reminders for the punishments of illegal, off-route motorized use, and those routes that are not open to motorized use should be clearly marked as such and reclaimed and/or gated.

  3. Clarifying which dispersed sites are suitable and safe for camping is needed; adding vault toilets near existing and non-problematic dispersed sites could minimally impact the landscape and could lead to a reduction in human waste ending up where it doesn't belong.

  4. Fish Creek offers heralded opportunities to fish for native species such as Westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout, and wild species such as rainbow trout and brown trout. Most of these are walk-and-wade opportunities, though some anglers do use small watercraft to float sections of the river. If possible, we ask that floating and seasonal fishing opportunities remain, though - once again, with an eye towards wildlife habitat - we ask that strict prohibitions are placed on cutting or removing woody debris and log jams from Fish Creek, and motorized watercraft use should be prohibited on Fish Creek.

  5. With more than 500 miles of USFS and timber roads intersecting the watershed, we do not see the need for any new bike trails constructed or officially sanctioned. If they must be sanctioned, they should stick to existing roadbeds where, according to the draft plan, “mountain bikers have near limitless opportunities for biking.” If new trails for mountain bikers are a must, careful considerations of trail densities to preserve big game security habitat, to avoid riparian areas, saddles, and ridge top trails which wildlife frequent, and to prevent stream crossings which will negatively impact water quality and aquatic habitats, are needed.

  6. FWP has stated that expanding the existing elk herd in the area is a priority for the department, and motorized use, mechanical use, and foot traffic all, in that order, displace elk and reduce elk security habitat. We encourage recreation strategy decisions to be made with elk behavior in mind both in route/trail planning and seasonal closures.

  7. Any expansion of designated campgrounds must be done carefully with an emphasis on rustic, walk-in sites with pit toilets and no other amenities being offered; seasonal closures that acknowledge wildlife needs should also be considered.

  8. Finally, if the Williams Peak Lookout is rehabbed and opened to public overnight use, public access to the lookout should remain non-motorized to protect wildlife habitat and quiet user experiences. The existing road could remain gated and available to administrative use only for any rehabilitation and future maintenance needs.

Questions, comments, or concerns? Feel free to drop us a line, but most importantly, let FWP know!

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