Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks recently released its long-awaited draft Blackfoot River Recreation Management Plan.
The proposal outlines the agency's goals and considerations in simultaneously maintaining a popular recreation corridor and protecting unique natural resources, and it's only the second river-specific plan of its kind in Montana. Public comment on the draft plan will last through Nov. 16.
The 70-page draft plan splits the Blackfoot into seven separate reaches, allowing FWP to customize its desired recreation management strategies based on common use. The reach between Whitaker Bridge and Johnsrud Park raises the most concern, as the stretch is particularly popular with large parties of casual day-users in summer. FWP's draft plan says the agency hopes to utilize this corridor to "avoid displacement of high use to upper reaches." In essence, the Whitaker-Johnsrud stretch will continue to bear the brunt of public use to protect more verdant upstream reaches of Blackfoot.
The plan also accommodates the potential for a future hiker/biker/horse trail on the Blackfoot following the old Milwaukee Railroad roadbed, and states FWP's intention to prohibit motorized boat use on the stretch of Blackfoot between the former Stimson Lumber Mill Dam site and the confluence with the Clark Fork.
Overall, the agency's draft plan extends those recreation management procedures already in place along the Blackfoot. Litter, overuse and degradation of the natural resource remain top concerns. However, the plan does open the door for possible bans on alcohol, site closures and limited-entry permit systems on individual reaches if abuse of the Blackfoot escalates.
FWP hosts two public open houses to discuss the draft Recreation Management Plan in the next month. The first will be held in the Ovando School Gymnasium on Oct. 19. The second will take place in Missoula at the Holiday Inn Downtown at the Park on Nov. 5.