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Parts of Big Hole River are under hoot owl and 'conservation' status

Streamflow conditions on the Big Hole River Aug. 7-10, 2022
Streamflow conditions on the Big Hole River Aug. 7-10, 2022

The Big Hole Watershed Committee has placed parts of the Big Hole River under “conservation” status. The group warned the public a week ago such measures were likely possible. Sections of the river from headwaters to North Fork Big Hole River and from Tony Schoonen Fishing Access Site to the river mouth have dropped below flow levels identified in the 1997 Big Hole River Drought Management plan to trigger conservation measures.

Anyone fishing those sections of the river are now asked to fish earlier in the day and during periods of cooler temperatures. Irrigators pulling water from those areas are asked to lower their head gates and tighten water use.

Big Hole Watershed Committee Executive Director Pedro Marques told MTPR last week that water rights on the river weren’t written with conservation in mind.

“In any river system in Montana, you have water users that could literally, without breaking a single law, dry up a river bed,” Marques said. “Voluntary measures to conserve water, we feel, are our best tools to manage water locally.”

Hoot owl restrictions are also in place for all but a middle chunk of the Big Hole, meaning anglers cannot fish the river after 2 p.m. in order to reduce fish stress.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing
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