Tom Kuglin Associated Press

HELENA (AP) – A proposal to limit motorized watercraft use on nearly 50 western Montana river and stream segments is the subject of a series of public hearings that started Jan. 3 and will continue through Jan. 11.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ Quiet Waters initiative offers a mix of certain seasonal and horsepower restrictions as well as the closure of some small tributaries for motorized use. The group cites advancements and future advancements of motorized technology as a primary reason for bringing the initiative.

Various regulation changes are sought on the Yellowstone, Flathead, Marias, Stillwater, Sun, Teton Bitterroot, Missouri, Swan and Whitefish rivers, with additional changes for multiple tributaries. Examples of proposed regulations include limiting the Missouri River near Craig to 10-horsepower or less motors from June 1 through Sept. 15, and closing all tributaries of the Bitterroot River to motorized watercraft.

A full description of impacted waterways is available at fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/rules/pn_0218.html.

“We recognize that jet boats and motorboats have a place in Montana, but that’s not in every stream all the time,” said John Sullivan, BHA Montana chair. “Quiet Waters for us is an honest conversation about a give and take.”

The petition process allows the public to bring proposed regulations directly to the Fish and Wildlife Commission. In May, the commission bucked opposition from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and voted unanimously to move Quiet Waters forward, putting the proposal into state rulemaking which includes public comment. Commissioners agreed with supporters that a “proactive” approach to regulations was a discussion worth having.

Meetings to take public comment were held in Kalispell on Jan. 3, Missoula on Jan. 4 and Bozeman on Jan. 5. Hearings are also scheduled for Monday, Jan. 9 in Billings, and Wednesday, Jan. 11 in Great Falls and Helena.

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