August 18, 2023
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Attn: Brett Dorak
PO Box 1630
Miles City, MT 59301
RE: Wildcat WMA Acquisition
Dear Mr. Dorak,
On behalf of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, a grassroot conservation organization with roughly 3,000 dues-paying members in the state, we submit these comments in full support of the proposed acquisition of 328 acres and the creation of the Wildcat Wildlife Management Area. We thank Montana FWP along with a handful of NGO partners for putting forward this collaboratively funded project proposal. Specifically, we’d like to extend a special note of gratitude to our friends at Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, MeatEater, National Wild Turkey Federation, and The Conservation Trust for their financial commitments to this project.
The Lower Yellowstone River is part of the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48 states, and although the upper reaches of the river enjoy many fishing access sites and publicly protected habitat for a variety of species, the lower river isn’t as fortunate in terms of access and publicly protected habitat along its banks. This proposed WMA, which is comprised by mostly an island in the river with 2.2 miles of riverfront land, provides valuable habitat for many huntable critters our members take keen interest in, including mule deer and white-tailed deer, Merriam’s turkey, waterfowl, ring-necked pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, and more. Further, the property hosts, or could host, several “species of concern” including great blue heron, black-tailed prairie dog, spiny softshell turtle, and little brown myotis.
We are happy to see that the proposed EA does not include much development of this property which would be to the detriment of the wildlife, but instead focuses on maintaining access to this wild island via an already existing boat ramp 1.5 miles to the east and only a primitive parking site for public access. Further development plans in the proposal seem largely dedicated to streambank mitigation, which also benefits wildlife. We appreciate the effort to strike a balance between public access, quiet recreation including hunting and fishing, and also the protection of the habitat for the species that call this property home.
Further, it is worth noting that the EA mentions public overuse of other publicly accessible sites because of scarcity of public lands and publicly accessible lands in the area. It is our hope that other state-owned sites would see more sustainable levels of recreational use as more public lands are added, to the benefit of both wildlife and public land owners alike.
Montana BHA strongly supports this proposal and applauds the effort by FWP and its NGO partners to create this WMA for the benefit of all.
Jake Schwaller, Eastern Montana Conservation Leader (volunteer board member)
Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers