Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fight over Fish Creek

Conservationists critique FWP's grand plan

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 3:33 PM

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wants to turn Fish Creek State Park into a first-class tourist destination, but local conservationists question whether the site can handle such increased attention.

Courtesy of Montana State Parks
  • Courtesy of Montana State Parks
On Dec. 20, the agency’s Parks Division released a draft management plan that details its vision for the future of the 5,603-acre park, which is located near Alberton west of Missoula. The state’s proposed developments include 40 to 60 paved RV campsites, a handful of reservation-only cabins for overnight use and several trails for dirt bikes and off-highway vehicles.

Montana Trout Unlimited, along with other conservation groups, argue that the draft management plan would drastically increase pressure on the Fish Creek landscape and could threaten the wildlife management area adjacent to the park.

“It is really incredibly inappropriate for the setting, it ignores longtime expectations that people who have been using that area have had for a long long time and it is just really bad policy,” says Bruce Farling, executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited. “... The Parks Division wants to invite the world to come into Fish Creek and it is bad. It is bad for fish, it is bad for wildlife, it is bad for the public, it is bad for local government, and it is really bad for the landscape.”

Farling says Fish Creek is home to important cutthroat and bull trout populations that are already experiencing increased angling pressure.

The Parks Division says it has worked with a variety of groups, including the Mineral County Commissioners, who support the plan because it promises economic benefits.

“I want to hit home that [the park] is one-eighth of the total 41,000 acres [at Fish Creek]. We are talking about 5,000 acres,” says Jennifer Lawson, a Montana State Parks spokesperson. “...It is going to continue to be a place where local residents and visitors can continue to enjoy all those outdoors recreation opportunities and more, all while we move forward to help improve Mineral County’s economy.”

The Parks Division will accept public comments on the draft management plan until Feb. 7.

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