Montana Outdoors

I recently opened the latest issue of the Montana Outdoors magazine, published by Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  My spouse and I are long-time subscribers and especially enjoy the annual Photo issue.

This particular article was short, one page, and really caught my eye.  I so enjoyed it, that I tracked it down at the source and requested permission to put it on our website. 

The article highlights a unique collaborative partnership that most people in the state don’t even probably know about, that between the regional Fish, Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologists and your local Conservation District.  

Stream permitting is a state mandated program that Conservation Districts are responsible for when local landowners want to do projects that affect perennial streams in the State of Montana.  Part of the process is that FWP is advisory to the Conservation District Board of Supervisors, usually entailing an onsite inspection between FWP, the CD and the permit applicant.  At LCCD, we rely on the FWP biologists who we work with, to ensure that projects completed are as good as possible.

Having worked for the Lewis & Clark Conservation District for 21 years, I have had the pleasure of coordinating with a number of really great biologists, though Ladd is not one of them.

FWP’s Montana Outdoors Magazine gave us permission to reprint the article here:

HABITAT GUARDIAN

LADD KNOTEK

FWP Fisheries Biologist, Missoula

All FWP fisheries biologists monitor native and sport fish populations, work to protect and restore aquatic habitat, conduct public outreach, and complete administrative tasks like stream permitting and fishing regulation revisions. What’s great about working for FWP is that we’re allowed to tailor the proportion of these responsibilities to our particular work area. That gives us the chance to be flexible and accomplish things that matter most for the residents and natural resources in each community.  

When people think of a fish biologist, they might envision someone pulling nets from a reservoir or wading a stream with a backpack shocker, as shown in this picture. We definitely do those things, but we also conduct stream permit inspections and attend conservation district meetings. These administrative activities protect fisheries habitat, and it’s some of the most important and lasting work we do.

I work in Missoula and other parts of western Montana where there is a lot of construction, expanding development, and a rapidly growing human population. These pressures can threaten lakes, rivers, and streams. Thankfully, Montana has strong stream and aquatic resource protection laws like the 1975 Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act (310 Law) and 1963 Stream Protection Act (124 Law). These provide legal tools used to balance development with resource protection and help lessen unintended damage to wild places and fisheries.

Although I enjoy working on the stream restoration and enhancement parts of my  job, I actually accomplish far more for streams and fish populations by reviewing 310 and 124 stream permit applications and working with local conservation districts and floodplain administrators. Unfortunately, most of their work goes unnoticed. What they do is prevent bad things from happening to streams or lessen the damage that comes from development. That’s something you can’t see. 

The next time you drive past the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, or other river or stream, bear in mind that one reason it looks so good and is producing so many fish is because of Montana’s environmental protection laws and the people who administer them.