Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
PO Box 9257
Missoula, MT 59807
November 25, 2019
Montana FWP Commission
Dear Chairman and Commissioners
Re: Petition to allow hovercraft on Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers
The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (MT BHA) opposes any modification of ARM rules that might modify current restrictions on motorized uses on the Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers, as included in the current Petition by Mr. Crews.
MT BHA consists of more than 3,000 active hunters and anglers across Montana who want to maintain traditional hunting and fishing uses on Montana’s waterways. We believe the public weighed in heavily on the subject of Bitterroot and Clark Fork motorized uses in 2011, which resulted in the current regulations. It was our understanding that the use of 20 hp motors on watercraft was intended only to allow continuation of a history of waterfowl hunters accessing these waters. Such 20 hp or less outboards are relatively quiet and, while they may disrupt waterfowl to a degree, their occasional presence during fall would not be objectionable to most other river users. Given the common shallow riffles and horsepower restrictions, most waterfowlers use them primarily in a downstream direction.
In contrast, hovercrafts are noisy, very disruptive and would greatly disturb nearly all aquatic and terrestrial wildlife in the river corridor, as well as residents along the river and other river recreationists. Hovercrafts, in our opinion, are an example of watercraft technology creep gone wild.
Our interpretation is that hovercraft are currently permissible on all Montana streams with no motorized restrictions in place. That is the majority of Montana streams. These motorized uses on streams are difficult to reverse once established. MT BHA suggests that FWP and the Commission reexamine the need for sensible motorized use restrictions on certain Montana streams, and take action to maintain the current balance before that opportunity for balance is foregone.
Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Board Conservation Director