Thursday, June 29, 2000- Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) have released for public review, the Draft Fisheries Co-management Planning Document containing options for managing the Flathead Lake and River System. The plan is the result of five months of volunteer effort by a 12-person citizen advisory committee that worked with CSKT and FWP.
The draft document is available on the FWP web site at http://fwp.state.mt.us/fishing/flatheadfish/. It is also available for review at county libraries, at the FWP office in Kalispell, and at the CSKT office in Pablo. To receive a copy of the document, contact the planning coordinators: Rich Janssen, CSKT, 675-2700x1299; or John Fraley, FWP, 752-5501. The full co-management plan and the executive summary both contain public comment forms. The first phase of the public comment period extends through August 4.
Three open houses are scheduled to help collect public comment on the draft planning document and options. At the open houses, FWP and CSKT resource staff will be on hand to answer questions and explain features of the options. Members of the Flathead Reservation Fish and Wildlife Board will also be on hand to visit with the public about the process. This Board is composed of three members appointed by the CSKT Tribal Chairman, three members appointed by the Governor, and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representative. The Board will recommend a final plan to CSKT Tribal Council and the FWP Director/Commission.
The open houses, scheduled from 5-9 p.m., are as follows:
Monday, July 10: Missoula-- Rubys Inn & Convention Center, 4825 N. Reserve
Tuesday, July 11: Kalispell-- Outlaw Inn, 1701 Highway 93 S; Winchester Room
Wednesday, July 12: Pablo-- Mission Valley Power Building, Highway 93
The Co-management Planning Document gives goals and guidelines that call for increases in native fish such as bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout, provisions to address nonnative species which have negative effects on the native species, and provisions to minimize losses to the recreational/subsistence fishery, which is made up primarily of nonnative fish. The planning document highlights four options for managing the lake and river system. When finalized, the plan will guide fisheries management in the lake and river system for the next 10 years.
The Citizen Advisory Group reached agreement on seven strategies containing 42 separate management actions to apply in the lake and in the river system upstream of the lake. The same sets of strategies for managing the river are included under each option because the Advisory Group reached consensus on river management direction. Four options were prepared for fish population management in the lake:
Option 1: The goal/objective of this option is to manage the lake for bull trout, cutthroat trout, and lake trout, encouraging harvest of smaller lake trout and retaining a large(trophy) lake trout component. It retains the current bag limits on nonnative fish to continue the recreational fishery at current levels and proposes regulations to reduce the consumption of larger lake trout that contain higher levels of the contaminants PCB and mercury. The option assumes recreational harvest of lake trout will reduce their numbers and benefit native fish.
Option 2: The goal/objective of this option is to protect and restore native fish by continuing the current direction in management. It builds on past successful management efforts of habitat protection and increased harvest of small lake trout. The option predicts increases in bull trout and cutthroat trout, and maintains the current regulations and recreational fishery. This option, like the other three, emphasizes research and adds adaptive management features. This option assumes current liberal limits in the recreational fishery are reducing nonnative fish and increasing native fish populations.
Option 3: The goal/objective of this option is to protect and restore native fish species by more actively reducing lake trout and other nonnative fish to acceptable levels that will reduce predation, competition, and hybridization. It seeks to diversify the fishery beyond the largely single-species fishery available today to include native and nonnative species. It calls for immediate reductions of nonnative fish to achieve a target indicator level of bull trout redds or nests in index-spawning areas (the advisory committee proposed 350 or more). It calls for commercial hook-and-line angling for lake trout. This option assumes that current recreational fishing is not reducing lake trout numbers and is not leading to increased numbers of native fish.
Option 4: The goal/objective of this option is to increase bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout to harvestable levels by aggressively harvesting lake trout and lake whitefish by commercial and recreational angling. A goal of this option is a target level of bull trout redds in index-spawning areas (the Advisory Committee proposed 300). If bull trout drop below an indicator level, this option includes netting of lake trout. This option assumes that commercial fishing will be required to increase native fish to the level specified in the goal.
The tribes and state have a solid history of working together on fish and wildlife management issues. The State/Tribal Fish and Wildlife Agreement was signed in 1990, and renewed in 1994 and 1998. The Flathead Reservation Fish and Wildlife Advisory Board involves technical and policy people from both entities and has operated well in setting joint fishing regulations.
After the public comment period, CSKT and FWP will work with the State/Tribal Fish and Wildlife Advisory Board to prepare a final draft management plan with a single management direction. After a second, more brief round of public comment in September, the Board will recommend a final plan to the CSKT Tribal Council and the FWP Director/Commission for final action and adoption.