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Montana news about the environment, natural resources, wildlife, climate change and more.

News briefs: Fish, bison, wilderness and oil & gas cleanup

Several stretches of rivers in the Jefferson Basin in SW Montana will close for fishing
Montana Public Radio | By John Hooks

Several stretches of rivers in the Jefferson Basin in southwest Montana will close for fishing on October 1st.

The Big Hole River will close from Dickie Bridge to the mouth and the Beaverhead River from Clark Canyon Dam to the Pipe Organ Bridge and from Barrett’s Diversion to the mouth. Officials will also halt fishing on the Ruby River from the Ruby Dam to Alder Bridge.

Biologists with Fish Wildlife and Parks recommended the closure to protect spawning beds during brown trout breeding season. Population surveys done this spring found historically low trout numbers throughout the watershed.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the restrictions in June.

Officials say some arctic grayling escaped from an Anaconda fish hatchery
Montana Public Radio | By John Hooks

Some intrepid Arctic grayling appear to have escaped from a fish hatchery in Anaconda into nearby Warm Springs Creek, according to Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (FWP).

The department surveyed the creek after anglers reported catching the fish. FWP found two grayling, which the department said indicates there are likely more in the creek.

Grayling are raised in isolation at the Washoe Park Fish Hatchery in Anaconda as part of a recovery effort. FWP is asking anglers not to return caught grayling to the creek, but to keep the fish and report catches to the department.

FWP said grayling are not a predation threat to other fish and are unlikely to establish a lasting population in the waterway. Past efforts to stock the creek with grayling in the 1900s failed.

The department will temporarily remove grayling from the hatchery while they investigate the escape route.

Yellowstone National Park officials extend the deadline for public comment on bison management plans 
Montana Public Radio | By Austin Amestoy

Yellowstone National Park officials said they’ve extended the deadline for the public to weigh in on potential plans for managing bison within the park. Comments can now be submitted until October 10th.

The plans present differing approaches to bison management that could result in a population anywhere between 3,500 and 7,000 animals within the park. One option would prioritize limiting brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle. Another would emphasize using Yellowstone bison to help restore herds on tribal lands outside the park.

Comments can be submitted online or through the mail. Click here to view the draft bison management plan and/or submit comments.

Two wilderness bills advance of committee
Montana Public Radio | By Maxine Speier

Two bills related to wilderness areas in Montana advanced out of committee Thursday, setting them up for a possible vote on the U.S. Senate floor.

Sen. Jon Tester’s bill, the Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act, would give federal wilderness status to nearly 80,000 acres near Seeley Lake.

Sen. Steve Daines’s bill, the Montana Sportsmen Conservation Act, would remove protections for nearly 100,000 acres of land that are currently designated as Wilderness Study Areas.

During the hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Daines said he “looked forward to advancing these two land bills together.” However, Tester and several prominent conservation groups said they are opposed to linking or connecting the two bills.

Three Montana tribal nations will receive federal funding to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells
Montana Public Radio | By Aaron Bolton

Three Montana tribal nations are receiving federal funding to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells. In all, tribes will receive $4.3 million for the work.

Abandoned oil and gas wells have plagued tribal lands across Montana for decades. Federal funding will help cap wells on the Rocky Boy, Fort Peck and Fort Belknap reservations. The federal government also plans to contract out work on the Crow Reservation.

The work will include soil remediation and habitat restoration.

The funding stems from the federal infrastructure bill Congress passed in 2021. During this first phase of funding, tribes will receive $40 million to clean up old wells.

The U.S. Interior Department is leading the effort and said this work will help tribal communities disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution.

John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at
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.

Respond to a listener callout from Austin
Maxine is the All Things Considered host and reporter for MTPR. She got her start at MTPR as a Montana News intern. She has also worked at KUNC in Northern Colorado and for Pacific Standard magazine as an editorial fellow covering wildfire and the environment.
Maxine graduated from the University of Montana with a master's degree in natural resource journalism and has a degree in creative writing from Vassar College. When she’s not behind the microphone you can find Maxine skiing, hiking with her not-so-well-behaved dogs, or lost in a book.
Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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