September 14, 2020

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Moves Forward with Plans to Increase Access on Flathead Lake

Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Inter-Mountain Western States Coordinator

On September 9, 2020, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) released a decision notice announcing its plan to continues forward with the purchase of nearly 15 acres on Flathead Lake for a Fishing Access Site that would increase public access and other recreation opportunities. The 14.89 acres of property would be developed into the Montebello Fishing Access Site and include an access road, parking area, boat launch, dock, vault latrine, signage, boundary fencing and host campsite. Acquisition and development of the property by FWP would ensure future public access to this property as well as Flathead Lake.

The Montebello Fishing Access Site is part of a larger Flathead Lake access package, which includes the proposed acquisition of 106 acres of shoreline near Somers for the development of a new State Park. Both projects, if approved by the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission, would greatly enhance public access and recreation opportunities on Flathead Lake. As it stands, 89% of the shoreline of Flathead Lake is under private ownership. By increasing the number of public access points, FWP’s hopes to alleviate pressure on overloaded preexisting lake access points and increase user satisfaction.

Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. Extremely popular among anglers, Flathead Lake supported 42,195 angler days in 2017 alone, contributing greatly to the American System of Conservation Funding and state conservation and wildlife management efforts. Furthermore, when combined with non-consumptive recreation, Flathead Lake generates a considerable amount of economic activity in nearby communities.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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