CENTENNIAL GRAYLING UPDATE: Unfortunately, after this issue went to print, federal District Judge Donald Molloy granted an injunction to stop the project until the case is fully heard, which likely means no project to benefit these grayling in 2023. This delay and its proponents stand to have far greater negative impacts to this Wilderness ecosystem by risking the disappearance of one of the most unique and iconic species than the short and modest construction efforts implementing the project in a Wilderness area would entail. This is a blow to the grayling, the spirit of collaborative conservation and Wilderness character. We remain optimistic that the Refuge decision and project will prevail on full hearing, assuming grayling survive another winter without our help. Stay tuned for more developments.
Sometimes withdrawing federal lands from mining claims is the right tool to protect precious places. That’s certainly the case with the recent announcement by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to protect the Fort Belknap Indian Community (FBIC) and surrounding lands from further mine devastation through a mineral withdrawal around the former Zortman-Landusky mine. Clean water, indigenous culture, fish, wildlife and human health are all too valuable to risk for the profits of global mining companies. While mining is important, it’s not the right use of resources everywhere. This mineral withdraw recognizes that fact.
Many know the history of water pollution near the Zortman-Landusky mine. The company that operated the mine, Pegasus, declared bankruptcy, leaving streams in the Fort Belknap Indian Community dewatered and degraded by acid mine drainage. This extensive damage will require expensive water treatment in perpetuity. Montana taxpayers are stuck with millions of dollars of the cleanup and water treatment costs, while the land, water and cultural resources suffer.
In order to protect the Fork Belknap Indian Community and the surrounding environment from more damage, the BLM withdrew an area around the Zortman-Landusky mine from mineral claims. The mineral withdrawal area was up for renewal in 2022. Because of additional need for cultural and ecosystem protection, the BLM listened to the Fork Belknap Indian Community, MTU, our partners, and the public to renew and expand the mineral withdrawal boundary.
MTU is proud to support the Fort Belknap Indian Community and our partners in this wise decision by the BLM. As Fort Belknap Community Council President Jeffery Stiffarm put it, “Good things come to good people! That’s what this team is! Thank you for everything you have done for Fort Belknap!!!” Right back at you President Stiffarm and everyone who championed this effort.
We’d also like to give extra thanks to our partners who worked on this effort, EarthWorks, Montana Environmental Information Center and EarthJustice and all those who spoke up for clean water and environmental justice for the Fort Belknap community. Read the BLM’s press release HERE.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is undergoing the now biennial review of fishing regulations and has proposed changes for the 2023-24 seasons. We support the vast majority of the proposed regulations and encourage our members and the public to get involved in the process. While FWP is hosting a series of Open Houses around the state, with opportunities to ask questions, we strongly recommend that interested citizens submit formal comments on issues they care about. Comments will be accepted until September 22, 2022 at 5pm. Visit https://fwp.mt.gov/fish/regulations/public-comment for a complete list of the proposed changes and opportunities to comment online on each proposal.
Here are 5 things we are happy to see and support in the new proposed regulations:
- Fighting Illegal Introductions – Many of the proposed changes strengthen FWP’s commitment to proactively managing against illegal fish introductions. We support the efforts to suppress fish populations, like walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass, that have resulted from those illegal introductions.
- Stopping Illegal Bait Transport and AIS – Fishing regulations, particularly around live and dead bait, are an important tool in combating the spread of aquatic invasive species. Several proposals offered here provide strong protections in that regard. We support all efforts to combat aquatic invasive species from entering our waterways.
- Conserving Sustainable Wild Trout Fisheries – Based on sound scientific research conducted by FWP, a number of proposals seek to support natural reproduction in southwest Montana reservoirs by protecting spawning fish in tributaries through the third Saturday in May. We support efforts to create sustainable, wild populations of fish.
- Protection for Struggling SW MT Wild Trout – Faced with troubling declines in trout populations in many southwest Montana rivers, FWP biologists have developed a science-based, data driven approach to managing fisheries on the Ruby, Beaverhead, and Big Hole rivers. These are adaptive strategies that will evolve as the fish populations rebound, but we support the current more restrictive regulations proposed on these rivers. Further we appreciate the ability to learn from these proposals as to what types of regulations may help support fish population recovery.
- Expanding Angler Opportunity – We are supportive of efforts to expand angler opportunity and harvest where appropriate, namely in several put-and-take fisheries and lakes that experience frequent over-winter kills.
We hope all interested members of the public take the opportunity to get involved in this important process. If you have any questions, please reach out to us directly at [email protected].