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'Quiet Waters' Hearings In Helena, Great Falls Wednesday

The comment period for the "quiet waters" initiative ends Feb. 12, 2017.
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The comment period for the "quiet waters" initiative ends Feb. 12, 2017.

The last of several public hearings on proposed changes to the way Montanans use motors on some streams and rivers happen tonight in Helena and Great Falls. There have been four public comment meetings on the "quiet waters" initiative so far.

"It’s a mixed bag to this point," says Ron Aasheim, a spokesman for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.

"I can certainly tell you that in Kalispell and Billings, the majority were opposed. Missoula they were in support, and in Bozeman, according to the crew, pretty even."

The comment period ends February 12. Montana’s Fish & Wildlife Commission has final decision making authority, and Aasheim says they probably won't take the issue up until April at the earliest:

"They'll take a look at the comments, deliberate, they'll be open discussion at the commission meeting and they'll make a decision based on what they think. That’s how they’ll do it."

Aasheim says the public has had strong feelings about this issue:

"It's been interesting. There's been lots of public comment. At the public meetings we're up at around 400 now and, as I said, we've got about 900 online, that's a lot of comments. It doesn’t compare to bison and wolves, but for a  lot of the Commission items we deal with, that's significant."

John Sullivan, Chairman of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the group that proposed the Initiative, acknowledges it's been an uphill battle:

"The public meetings have been a little rough for us, to be totally honest There are a lot of folks out there who are afraid of what we’re trying to do. They feel threatened by it. They feel that we're trying to take away their rights, which is not the intention at all."

I asked Sullivan what happens next.

"We're gonna keep pushing hard to make sure we can educate our neighbors on what we're trying to do, talk with folks, try to get a consensus on what we’re trying to pass, and build some support. We still have an uphill battle but There's a way to work around our differences and a way to make Montana a better place."

Tonight's meetings in Great Falls and Helena both take place at 6:00 p.m.

Find more information on the "quiet waters" initiative here.

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