Missoula, Montana is situated at the junction of the Blackfoot, Bitterroot and Clark Fork rivers, which provides outstanding floating, wildlife viewing, fishing and waterfowl hunting. Increasingly in recent years, the traditional quiet use of these rivers had been compromised by more jet boats and jet skis. This major change in use also impacted riparian wildlife and safety of floaters. Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers helped organize and collaborated with other interest groups to mount support for reasonable motorized regulations that maintained traditional uses. MT BHA joined with Hellgate Hunters and Anglers, Trout Unlimited and Clark Fork Coalition to communicate with river users as well as adjacent landowners, homeowners associations, and other concerned groups.
Our group representatives met with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks to develop a process. MDFWP drafted proposed regulations that were a good initial start. MDFWP backed away somewhat after receiving considerable organized opposition from motorized river users, but did move to propose banning jetskis on all Missoula area rivers. The final regulations approved by the Fish and Game Commission now in effect will eliminate all motorized use from the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers except for some low horsepower use during fall waterfowl season on the Bitterroot. The Clark Fork downstream to its confluence with the Bitterroot will be closed to motors yearlong. The Clark Fork downstream from the Bitterroot to Petty Creek will have seasonal motorized restrictions, including no motorized use during the summer fishing and floating season.
Traditional river uses and riparian wildlife are the winners this time around.