Montanans have put over $3 million to work protecting or enhancing habitat for wild or native fish through the Future Fisheries Improvement Program created in 1995 by the Montana Legislature. Applications for the next round of funding are due Jan. 1 to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Habitat Protection Bureau. The simple one-page applications are available from FWP regional offices in Kalispell, Missoula, Bozeman, Great Falls, Billings, Glasgow, Miles City or the Fisheries Division in Helena. The application is also on FWP's web page under the fishing section at http://fwp.state.mt.us.
Any individual or group with a project designed to restore or enhance habitat for wild or native fish may apply for Future Fisheries funding. Projects might, for example, improve water quality, stabilize and restore stream banks, restore river or stream channels, or make diversion dams and other structures more fish-friendly. All program funds come from the sale of Montana fishing licenses. Landowners and other project partners commonly share project costs, which extends the Future Fisheries Improvement Program dollars.
A 13-member citizen panel reviews the public's proposals twice a year and recommends projects to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission for final approval. Sponsors of approved projects enter into an agreement with FWP to maintain the project improvements through responsible land-management practices.
Elk Creek, Nelson Reservoir and Big Spring Creek are three diverse waterways that have benefited from Future Fisheries Improvement Program grants. Stream banks on Elk Creek, which flows into Cabinet Gorge Reservoir near the town of Heron, were stabilized to improve habitat for bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout.
On Nelson Reservoir, near Malta, spawning and rearing habitat for walleye and native forage fish were improved. And on Big Spring Creek, a stretch of stream channel near Lewistown was restored to a natural meandering pattern to improve habitat for rainbow trout and brown trout.
For more information on the Future Fisheries Improvement Program, call (406) 444-2449 or write to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Future Fisheries Improvement Program; P.O. Box 200701; Helena, MT 59620-0701.