HELENA — Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) have updated their COVID-19 closure policy in response to Gov. Steve Bullock’s phased reopening plan.
Beginning on Friday, May 1, group-use sites and overnight camping opportunities will resume at most FWP fishing access sites and state parks.
Campers should be aware there may be limited amenities or services at some sites common with early season camping, such as bathrooms being closed.
FWP spokesperson Greg Lemon says there is an abundance of outdoor recreation available, people are just asked to follow social distancing guidelines while using FWP sites.
“Part of what the governor has said many times is our ability to move from phase one to phase two, and phase two to phase three is going to depend on the public being aware of social distancing protocols that keep themselves and each other safe,” said Lemon.
“What we don’t want is to open up a group-use site and then have a group of 30 people hunkered under a picnic shelter, or smushed together on a fishing pier,” he continued.
Gov. Bullock’s travel restrictions remain in place which requires people traveling from out of state to quarantine for 14-day. FWP says going camping is not an acceptable way to quarantine.
Floating on the Smith River will reopen May 5 and FWP is working with federal and local partners to safely allow recreation.
Paddlefish season on the Upper Missouri River will run as usual, but there will be no snag-and release. On the Yellowstone and Lower Missouri rivers, paddlefish season will remain closed.
“Those fisheries are concentrated around a few access points, so it’s really hard for people to take part in that fishery and keep socially distanced,” explained Lemon. “We understand the frustration people have of not having that opportunity this year, and we don’t take any delight in limiting people’s opportunities.”
Hunter’s Education also remains suspended through at least May 7. FWP is actively working on a way to provide Hunter’s Education programs while following COVID-19 safety guidelines.
The latest information about FWP's response to the COVID-19 outbreak can be found here.