Montanans have put about $4 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 sometimes 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.
Recently completed projects include installation of a fish screen on Little Prickly Pear Creek, near Sieben, to prevent the loss of juvenile and adult rainbow trout into an irrigation canal. Little Prickly Pear Creek is the most important tributary to the "Blue Ribbon" section of the Missouri River for spawning and recruitment of both rainbow and brown trout. In another project, a side channel on the Stillwater River, located near Absarokee, was restored to provide spawning and rearing habitat for rainbow and brown trout. A fish migration barrier on Cottonwood Creek, near the Beartooth Game Range, will prevent non-native brook trout from mingling with native westslope cutthroat 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 69620-0701.