Madison, Yellowstone river fishing access sites move ahead

News Type: State, , Source: Ravalli Republic
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Two river fishing access sites received initial approval from the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission last Thursday, one on the Yellowstone and the other on the Madison.

The first is located 13 miles downstream from Livingston and utilizes Montana Department of Transportation property along the river and just off Interstate 90. Silt deposition at the Sheep Mountain FAS, two miles upstream, has created a land barrier between the boat ramp and the river making it increasingly more difficult to launch boats.

The road to the MDT property would require boaters to cross Montana Rail Link’s railroad tracks. Railroad crossings into recreation areas must meet higher public crossing standards, as opposed to private or farm crossings, due to anticipated higher volumes of traffic, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wrote in the agenda item for the proposal. In initial talks with Montana Rail Link officials, though, FWP said upgrades may be limited to improvements to the road grade leading up to and over the tracks as well as additional signage. “A more in-depth engineering review by Montana Rail Link will be needed to substantiate their initial findings.”

“It’s time to do this,” said commission chairman Dan Vermillion of Livingston, who noted that traffic at Sheep Mountain FAS is heavy.

“This shows the importance of working with the Montana Department of Transportation and maybe increasingly with Montana Rail Link,” said Nick Gevock, conservation director for the Montana Wildlife Federation.

Shane Colton, a commissioner from Billings, said a similar process took place on the Yellowstone farther downstream when the Holmgren Ranch FAS was developed.

“That process went really smoothly, but it took some time,” he said.

On the Madison River the commission agreed to accept a no-cost Recreational Use Permit from MDT for about two acres adjacent to the Milwaukee FAS, which is located along the Madison River east of Three Forks.

The permit will allow use of the existing FAS access road and a small parcel on the west bank of the river for a boat launch that was established when the site was acquired in 1979.

With the permit in hand FWP can repair the access road. Additionally, across the river on the west bank improvements can be made to a pioneered parking area and an existing gravel boat launch. The west bank also opens access to the Missouri River Legacy Trail system that will provide a link from the FAS to the community of Three Forks and Missouri Headwaters State Park.

The commission also agreed to a summer closure of White Bear FAS outside of Great Falls to prevent it from becoming a party spot for locals. Past seasonal closures have helped reduce vandalism, underage drinking and drug use at the site. FWP has been working to exchange the land for another parcel downstream at Carter’s Ferry to rid itself of the problem permanently.

“I think neighbors made a pretty compelling case why this is a problem for them,” Vermillion said.