Defending Public, Non-Motorized Access on Marais River

The following is a letter that was submitted on behalf of Montana BHA, in opposition to a motorized development proposal on the Marais River.

June 11, 2013

Montana Fish and Game Commission

Helena MT 59620

Dear Chairman Vermillion and Members of the Commission:

Re Marias WMA Access

BuffaloskullandbearMontana Chapter Backcountry Hunters is a Montana grassroots hunter and angler organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing big, wild habitat as well as preservation of traditional non-motorized hunting and fishing opportunities.

We are strongly OPPOSED to the proposed acquisition of motorized access to the river bottom of the Marias River WMA.

Our opposition to this acquisition is based on three important premises.

First, there are few large non-motorized, floatable public land river bottom riparian opportunities in Montana. Three experienced Montana outdoorsmen (Mike Penfold, Bill Cunningham and myself) floated through the WMA in the spring of 2012 to evaluate the habitat, as well as enjoy a 14 mile long backcountry float. We felt the experience was a high quality experience that could easily be completed in two days, with a beautiful riverbank campsite one night enroute.   Penetrating the heart of the WMA with motorized access would ruin the quality of the float through the property.    

greg20and20bill20setting20up20camp20on20MariasSecond, there is one or more grizzly bear using the river bottom riparian areas. On our float we observed very fresh grizzly tracks on the streambanks, along with a host of other riverine species. We even found an ancient bison skull.   Motorized access to the river bottom would likely displace grizzlies to adjacent private lands where chance of conflicts are higher. If the grizzlies are not displaced, the human camping in the river bottom would be problematic toward more grizzly-human conflicts.

Third, it seems unjustifiable for MDFWP to giving up 360 acres of wildlife habitat in exchange for unneeded road access. In addition to the significant acreage, giving up this acreage also included a riparian area on the lower end of the property and makes the BLM inholding inaccessible to sportsmen as well.

There is ample opportunity for human access to the river bottom via hiking from one of the existing public access locations already in place. One of our group (nearly 70 years old) has hiked to the river bottom, floated a short section and hiked back to his vehicle. We also note that for the past several years the drawing to hunt the WMA is in high demand, and hunters obviously find the current situation attractive, or at least satisfactory. Why change an access situation that is working?

Montana needs more public land opportunities that encourage hunters and anglers to leave their vehicles far behind and have a high quality Montana hunting or fishing experience as a result.


s/ greg l munther

Greg L Munther, Chairman, Montana Chapter, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

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