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Quiet Waters Initiative Upholds Montana Waterways, Public Safety

Posted on December 02 2016

From BHA:

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ Montana chapter initiated the commonsense measure,
currently open for public comment

MISSOULA, Mont. – A proposal to safeguard natural resources, uphold public safety and diminish user-group conflicts by regulating the use of motorized watercraft on some Montana waterways merits strong citizen support, says the Montana chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, which initiated the measure currently being considered by the state fish and wildlife commission.

BHA’s Quiet Waters initiative is a proactive effort to address advancing motorized technology on one of Montana’s most valuable assets: its streams and waterways. The proposal started with a stream-by-stream look at current motorized watercraft regulations and use across the state. BHA worked with local officials, businesses and individuals to identify areas of growing conflict and streams where traditional uses are threatened, creating unsafe situations and damaging fish and wildlife habitat. Quiet Waters asks the commission to protect certain small streams – many of which currently have no restrictions on motorized use – from the habitat disturbance and safety issues presented by high-speed watercraft.

BHA Montana Chapter Chairman John Sullivan emphasized that Quiet Waters is a commonsense and timely proposal.

“Montana’s population is growing rapidly, but the miles of rivers and streams are staying the same,” said Sullivan, who lives in Missoula. “We’re not proposing to shut down motorized use across Montana – there are hundreds and hundreds of river miles where it is appropriate – but emerging technology has allowed motorized watercraft to negotiate streams previously thought non-negotiable. More and more people are putting pressure on the same amount of water. If we don’t get ahead of this technology Montana will lose our safe, traditional, quiet use areas. Montanans should have the right to safely wade, float, tube and hunt without the threat of motorized craft.”

Quiet Waters does not propose significant changes in motorized use where it already takes place unless conflicts are known to occur there. Much of what is proposed are simply seasonal changes during times of low water and high use. Local agency personnel and knowledgeable citizens were consulted on current situations and potential changes in regulations.

“Our proposal seeks to create balance – and uphold opportunities for Montana river enthusiasts who use rafts, canoes, kayaks or inner tubes,” said Montana Chapter Vice Chairman Jared Frasier, a resident of Manhattan, Montana. “In general, Montanans like our current dynamic, which designates places to use large, high-speed boats as well as places open only to non-motorized crafts. From a safety perspective, this is only common sense: Floating families and high-speed boaters shouldn’t have to share congested waters. We don’t want to change the current dynamic, but we believe that access for traditional uses ought to be maintained.”

Members of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously in May to advance Quiet Waters. Public comments are being accepted on the proposal through Jan. 13, 2017.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the sportsmen’s voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.

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