Reminder: Comprehensive River Management Plan public meeting, March 6

Elk Crossing North Fork of Flathead River, north of Camas Bridge, March 4, 2016 - Greg Evans
Elk Crossing North Fork of Flathead River, north of Camas Bridge, March 4, 2016 – Greg Evans

The first public meeting on development of a Comprehensive River Management Plan for the three forks of the Flathead River is on March 6, 6:00pm, at Cedar Creek Lodge in Columbia Falls. This is a pretty big deal given the steep increase in recreational traffic over the past few years. The current plan is dated, at best.

Here’s the text of Flathead Forest’s press release, which does a good job of summarizing the issues at hand . . .

The Flathead National Forest, in coordination with Glacier National Park, has begun the process to prepare a Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP) for the 3-Forks of the Flathead River.

The river and surrounding lands offer recreational opportunities and access to outstanding resources for a variety of public lands users. The CRMP will address the current status of these resources, outline goals and desired conditions, determine user capacities, and create a monitoring strategy and plan to carry forward. The public is encouraged to contribute to this planning effort that will secure the outstanding remarkable values of the 3-Forks of the Flathead River for future generations. The planning team will be reaching out to the public to provide information on background of the statutory requirements of a CRMP under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, describe the need for change from the current river management plan and to gather public input on management issues for the CRMP. The first public meeting introducing the project will be held on March 6th from 6 to 8 pm at the Cedar Creek Lodge Conference Room in Columbia Falls, Montana. Additional meetings will follow allowing for further participation and opportunities to comment, that will help develop the CRMP.

The 3-Forks of the Flathead was designated a Wild and Scenic River in 1978 and is a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. It encompasses the North Fork of the Flathead from the Canadian border to its confluence with the Middle Fork, the entire Middle Fork, and the South Fork from its headwaters to Hungry Horse Reservoir. The North Fork and the lower Middle Fork form the boundaries between the Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park. Portions of the Middle and South Forks flow through the Bob Marshall and Great Bear Wilderness Areas. A total of 219 miles of the Flathead River are included in the designation.

The Wild and Scenic River Act became law in 1968. It is intended to recognize that certain selected rivers of the nation possess outstanding, remarkable scenic, recreational geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values that shall be preserved in free flowing condition and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

This CRMP effort will be coordinated by HydroSolutions Inc, a Helena, Montana engineering, water, and natural resource consulting firm, who was recently awarded the contract to complete the CRMP after a competitive bid process. Bids for the project were received and reviewed by the Flathead National Forest under an existing Region 1, USDA Forest Service Indefinite Delivery/ Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contract. Work began in October 2017 and is scheduled for completion in 2020.

For more information, please call Flathead National Forest Recreation Program Manager, Chris Prew at 406-758-3538.