Last summer, new restrictive rules were enacted to address congestion on the popular West Fork and the Upper Bitterroot River. The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission wants to make a change. After looking over the 2018 data and comments from a Citizens Advisory Council, the rule would be amended to change "floats" to "launches" and provide a definition of what a "launch" would be. They would also change the year-round restriction to a shorter window of June 1 to September 15.

Public comment is open until March 22. There will be a public hearing March 19 at 6 p.m. at the Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor's Office at 1801 North 1st in Hamilton. Written comments can be sent to the FWP office at 3201 Spurgin road, Missoula MT 59804. The Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks explained the reasoning behind the changes in a news release (see below):

"There are a few reasons for these changes. River section lengths are too short at high flows, with float trips extending into lower river sections. As a result, commercial use is further restricted at high water since it takes multiple floats to conduct one trip. Using the “float” restriction also encourages congestion at accesses at section boundaries. Using “launches” allows floating into downstream sections that allow commercial use, so it spreads out use of access sites. These proposed amendments will not affect non-commercial use sections and are expected to ease restrictions on commercial users, spread out congestion at access sites and not affect non-commercial users in restricted sections."

For more information, check the Montana FWP website.

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