Posted: Oct 24, 2012 11:28 AM by Tara Grimes - MTN News
Updated: Oct 24, 2012 12:58 PM
The Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge is close to having a new management plan after more than four years of research, studies, and public meetings.
Management of the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge hasn't changed for the past 50 years, but thanks to a federal law which mandates a public planning process of the refuge every 15 years, officials found many problems currently facing the lake.
One of the top issues officials and residents have explored is selenium build-up in the wetland basin which is becoming toxic to some species there. The refuge has also experienced other health problems in the vegetation.
To deal with these issues, Benton Lake officials and the public decided on a plan which dries out two of the ponds and rotates water through lower units until vegetation and selenium levels are fixed.
They would also modify the wet-dry cycle according to data, making sure they are still providing water in the fall for waterfowl.
Waterfowl hunting would be available for at least 11 of the next 15 years and although the public helped put together this plan, some residents still have concerns.
"People are always concerned about the uncertainty. The system has a lot of uncertainties, it's dependent upon runoff and rainfall and so with those little factors involved it's hard to say this is exactly what we're going to do in the future," Kathleen Burchett of Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge noted.
Burchett says they must modify the plan as they go along to meet the objectives. And although there were several proposed alternatives, Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks officials say they believe this is the best compromise between hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, and the environment.
The plan will be finalized and sent to the regional director for approval.