March 26, 2020
Comments Coordinator, Region 2
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
3201 Spurgin Rd
Missoula, MT 59804
Re: C. Ben White Memorial Fishing Access Site
Dear Ms. Rose:
The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers submits this comment in supportof Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks’ (“FWP”) proposal to acquire and develop a new Fishing Access Site (“FAS”) on the West Fork of the Bitterroot River, in Ravalli County. The Montana Chapter’s more than 3,200 members have a keen interest in all fee title acquisitions of FWP, as our organization is dedicated to protecting the value that wild lands, wildlife and wild fish bring to our great state. We strive to protect large parcels of backcountry fish and wildlife habitat, as well as the opportunity for traditional, fair-chase hunting and fishing experiences.
Acquisitions of new public river accesses, such as that proposed by FWP for the C. Ben White Memorial FAS, provide an invaluable resource to Montanans. As FWP is aware, use on the West Fork of the Bitterroot River has risen dramatically over the last several decades. Enlargement and development of public access and FWP land holdings will only serve to assist with distribution of impacts from growing public use and enhancement of the natural resource user experience.
Of particular significance with this acquisition is the multi-use nature of the property. As FWP notes in its Draft EA, the proposed FAS would not just provide access for angling, but also would allow opportunities for hunting, camping, hiking, birdwatching and horseback riding. This type of diverse recreational access perfectly exemplifies what Montanans want to see from their land management agencies. As further noted in the Draft EA, FWP does not own or operate any other FAS along the entire length of the West Fork, making this acquisition an important addition to the state’s holdings.
Although the total project cost does seem high, Montana BHA supports the collaborative nature of the fundraising efforts which have been secured to make this acquisition possible. In addition, the extremely valuable nature of this riparian property would surely entice private development. This opportunity cost makes this purchase that much more beneficial to the public, as it will serve to not only provide continued public access, but also will permanently protect the biologically rich riparian habitat that contributes to the abundance of aquatic invertebrates, Westslope Cutthroat and terrestrial wildlife.
For all of these reasons, Montana BHA offers this comment in support of FWP’s proposed acquisition of the C. Ben White Memorial FAS, as currently proposed in the Draft EA publish in February 2020.
Graham Coppes, Region 2 Chapter Leader
The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers