KALISPELL — Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is seeking to improve habitat conservation and recreational opportunities on four Flathead Lake Islands.
Bird, Cedar, Douglas, and Goose islands are considered Wildlife Habitat Protection Areas under a plan developed by FWP in 2009.
FWP spokesman Dillon Tabish said recreational use continues to grow on these islands causing devastating impacts to wildlife habitat.
“We have vandalism issues on these islands, we have human waste issues with folks leaving human waste on these islands, garbage, litter, and then obviously just recently we had a pretty large fire on Bird Island,” said Tabish.
The cause of the Bird Island fire in August of 2020 is still undetermined at this time, but Tabish said it was most likely human-caused.
“With the Bird Island fire, I think that really showed everybody that we need to make sure that we’re taking a hard look at how we’re trying to balance recreational use and conservation on these islands,” added Tabish.
Tabish said one proposal is to install compost toilets on Bird and Cedar Island as well as designated campsites.
“Right now, it’s kind of just anywhere folks want to go and camp they’re doing that and so we’re thinking that if we can try to identify and restrict camping to certain locations that will help reduce some of those issues that we’re seeing,” said Tabish.
Another proposal is to completely shut off recreation access to these islands altogether.
“And so that’s on the table as well and we’re just asking the public to look through our proposals and provide us with some constructive feedback that we can use to make sure we’re coming to the best decision,” added Tabish.
Tabish said a decision is badly needed as annual visitation numbers to Flathead Lake State Parks have more than doubled in the last 12 years.
“Those islands although those aren’t state parks, those are still seeing similar use and increases in use so we’re just trying to do our best to balance recreational opportunity with conservation,” said Tabish.
Public comments on the proposal will be accepted through Nov. 22. Written comments can be mailed to Flathead Lake Islands Proposed Recreation Management, cc: Coltrane; Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; 490 N. Meridian Road; Kalispell, MT 59901, or sent by e-mail to JColtrane@mt.gov. Comments can also be submitted online.
A breakdown of the specific proposed actions is detailed in a draft environmental assessment. A virtual public information meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Nov. 3. The meeting will be streamed online through Zoom.
A decision notice is expected to be presented to the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission this winter.