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Michigan's Monumental Camp Grayling Expansion Rejected

Plus North Platte access, help for Sac River salmon, NOAA' annual Status of Stocks, Smith River appeal, bull trout decline, and Utah Advisory Councils in Fly Fisherman's News Briefs for Friday, May 5.

Michigan's Monumental Camp Grayling Expansion Rejected

A proposed plan to more double the size of a National Guard base around both the Manistee and the Au Sable watersheds has been rejected. (George Daniel photo)

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Michigan has declined a proposed 20-year lease of approximately 162,000 acres of state forest land to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) for low-impact military training activities surrounding the Manistee and Au Sable River drainages. Most of the proposed land was found to be ineligible due to buffer zones around water bodies or other restrictions.

Fly Fisherman reported on the conservation group Anglers of the Au Sable’s opposition to the proposal in the Feb-Mar 2023 issue.

However, under a Memorandum of Understanding, the DMVA may apply for limited land use permits to conduct exercises on up to 52,000 acres of eligible land. The agreement includes no permanent fencing or structures, no live fire or use of tanks, and recreational access will remain at all times. Additionally, the DNR doubled the size of buffer zones around inland lakes and designated trout streams where no military activity can take place.

A statement from Anglers of the Au Sable states the group is pleased at the declined expansion, but has concerns about the new proposal.

“We continue to be opposed to the expansion of Camp Grayling, by any method,” said Joe Hemming, president of Anglers of the Au Sable, in the statement. “We support our military, but have serious questions about the department’s authority to issue a permit and the need for additional property for its electromagnetic warfare training. The Guard needs to improve its operations and relationships with local governments before it gets access to even more state property.”

The full statement is available here.

BLM Seeking Additional Comment for North Platte River Property Purchase

A scene of the North Platte River with golden cliffs in the background
The Marton Ranch purchase would add about 9 new miles of river access to Wyoming's North Platte River. (Photo courtesy of the BLM)

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Wyoming recently purchased a ranch from a private landowner for $14 million intended to provide increased public access to the North Platte River, but the sale has been criticized by some who believe that the purchase price was too high and that the deal was not transparent. The BLM has now decided to hold additional public meetings to discuss the purchase and address these concerns.

A map of new stream access on the North Platte River.
The Marton Ranch borders the south/east bank of the North Platte River in the so-called Grey Reef section. (Courtesy of the BLM)

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon objected to the purchase of the nearly 36,000-acre Marton Ranch south of Casper, that would make south/east bank of the so-called Grey Reef section downstream of Alcova Reservoir virtually entirely public. In response the agency has put forth a “supplemental analysis,” asking for additional public comment through May 12.

The new details can be found here, and comments can be made by clicking the “Participate Now” button on the left.




Pulse Flows Aim to Aid Sacramento River Salmon

NOAA Fisheries reports that a "pulse flow" of water will be released into the Sacramento River, California, to aid the survival of juvenile salmon traveling to the ocean. The pulse flow is intended to mimic the natural flooding events that once occurred in the area, providing a boost of water and nutrients for the salmon.

NOAA Fisheries will be working with the University of California Santa Cruz to research if the flows increase survival rates of juvenile salmon, which increases adult salmon returns during spawning season.

Major precipitation events this past winter have provided the necessary water to produce two pulses. The first is set to occur on April 24 and is intended to help spring Chinook, which are listed on the Endangered Species Act.

Recommended


A researcher inserting an acoustic tag into a juvenile salmon.
NOAA/UC Santa Cruz researcher Brendan Lehman inserting an acoustic tag into juvenile salmon. (Jeffrey Harding, NOAA Fisheries photo)

“We want to maximize our opportunity to learn from this,” said Cyril Michel, a research scientist with NOAA Fisheries Southwest Fisheries Science Center based at University of California Santa Cruz. “This doesn’t happen often so we are measuring it from every angle.”

The pulse flow is part of a larger effort to restore salmon populations in the Sacramento River, which have declined in recent years.

Read more here.

Mining Company Appeals Smith River Mine Decision

A fly angler releases a brown trout into Montana's Smith River, from a raft.
In April 2022, a Montana District Court vacated a mining permit for a proposed copper mine in the Smith River drainage.

A foreign-owned mining company is appealing an April 2022 Montana District Court decision to vacate a mining permit for a copper mine in Montana’s Smith River watershed.

Sandfire Resources, Inc., applied for a copper mine exploration permit in 2014 on Sheep Creek, a major headwater tributary to the Smith River. The proposed mine is high-risk for producing acid mine drainage. In April 2020, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a permit for the Black Butte Mine, leading Montana Trout Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, and other organizations to initiate legal action to stop the mine, arguing that the DEQ had failed to protect the Smith River adequately and ignored public opposition. In April 2022, a Montana District Court agreed and vacated the mining permit. The coalition of organizations continues to fight against the mining permit.

The Montana Supreme Court will hear the appeal on Wednesday, June 21 at 9:30am in the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building in Helena. There is expected to be opportunities for virtual attendance, though nothing has been announced as of this writing.

Montana Bull Trout Redds Appear to Decline

A bull trout being released back into a river.
According to an FWP press release, bull trout redd counts were down at 48 percent of the long-term monitoring sites, were stable at 40 percent, and increased at 12 percent. (Liz Juers photo)

Fisheries managers with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) are concerned about declining numbers of bull trout in the state's streams and rivers. Bull trout are a threatened species in the US and are particularly sensitive to changes in water temperature and quality. While some bull trout populations are stable or even increasing in Montana, others are struggling due to a variety of factors, including habitat loss, competition from non-native species, and climate change.

“Bull trout need clear, cold water and complex, connected habitat,” said Eric Roberts, FWP’s fisheries management bureau chief said in a press release. “We’ve done a lot of work to provide for these things in bull trout streams and we need to look at doing more.”

According to the release, bull trout redd counts were down at 48 percent of the long-term monitoring sites, were stable at 40 percent, and increased at 12 percent.

Fisheries managers are monitoring bull trout populations and taking steps to protect their habitat and limit human impacts on their environment. These efforts include restoring streams and rivers, reducing water temperature fluctuations, and limiting activities such as logging and mining in sensitive areas.

This report does not change much for fly anglers as fishing for bull trout is only allowed in Four fisheries in Montana (Lake Koocanusa, the South Fork of the Flathead River/Hungry Horse Reservoir, Swan Lake in the Seeley-Swan Valley, and Duck Lake on the Blackfeet Reservation), and harvest is only allowed at Hungry Horse.

“Over the years we’ve had many projects to improve bull trout numbers and it continues to be a focus for us and our partners,” Roberts said.

Read the press release here.

Utah Seeking Anglers for Advisory Council

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is seeking angler applicants to serve on regional advisory councils that help to inform wildlife management decisions in the state. Regional advisory councils are made up of volunteers who represent the public and provide input on wildlife management issues in their respective areas.

Council members serve four-year terms and attend quarterly meetings, where they have the opportunity to discuss wildlife management policies and provide feedback on proposed changes. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and live in the region they wish to represent.

Applicants must be nominated by community organizations such as a political group, town council, or recreational group. Applications are due by May 31 and can be submitted here.

NOAA Releases 2022 Status of Stocks Report

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released its annual report on the status of US fish stocks. The report finds that the number of stocks subject to overfishing remains at a near-historic low, with only 15 stocks currently overfished out of the 321 stocks assessed. Additionally, the report shows that the number of stocks rebuilt since 2000 has increased to 49, with the addition of seven stocks in 2021 alone.

However, the report also highlights the need for continued management efforts to ensure sustainable fisheries, particularly in light of the ongoing challenges posed by climate change. 

The full report is available here.

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