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Crisis on the Big Hole: Q&A with the Montana Governor's Office

Rumors of supplemental trout stocking and the Governor's thoughts on climate change get addressed.

Crisis on the Big Hole: Q&A with the Montana Governor's Office

(Photo courtesy of Wade Fellin/Big Hole Lodge/SaveWildTrout.org)

Fly Fisherman magazine editor/publisher Ross Purnell recently had the chance to ask some questions to the state’s chief executive, Governor Greg Gianforte, about the situation on Montana’s Big Hole River (and surrounding rivers).

Recent data from the Big Hole River and other Jefferson-drainage fisheries revealed the lowest recorded numbers of brown and rainbow trout since 1969. The exact cause or causes of the declines are not fully known, and there are many unanswered questions about how state agencies and officials will ultimately respond.

Governor Gianforte previously responded to a letter signed by concerned outfitters, guides, business owners, and non-profit organizations about the crisis in the southwest corner of the state, with a letter provided to the media. The following questions are meant to address some of what was not in his letter. 

Governor Gianforte’s Spokesperson Kaitlin Price answered most of Purnell's questions, but did not address whether or not there are emergency economic resources available for affected businesses, if there is budget allocated for testing diseased fish, and if there is a team of scientists ready to mobilize on the Big Hole.

The Governor requests that continued feedback and recommendations be sent to FWP’s Chief of Conservation Policy, Quentin Kujala, at qkujala@mt.gov or 406-444-3196.


Q: Is Governor Gianforte able to publicly take trout stocking off the table as a possible “fix” to this problem? I’m hearing wild rumors that the state might stock the Big Hole to bring trout numbers up, but I’d like someone at the state level to take this off the table to stop the rumor mill.

A: Montana has set the standard for the nation for decades for its management of wild trout fisheries. You’re safe to take that off the table as a baseless rumor.

Q: Is the governor willing to hold an emergency meeting in Beaverhead County to hear from local business owners?

A: The governor looks forward to sitting down and meeting with residents during his third annual 56 County Tour, launched earlier this month.




Q: The Governor cites warm water and low rivers as a primary cause of the trout declines. Is this an acknowledgment of climate change? More importantly, what steps will the governor take to fix this problem? We know he can’t make it rain but there is a massive amount of water coming out of the river for irrigation.

A: The climate is changing, and the governor believes we must focus on American innovation and ingenuity to address it, not costly government mandates.


Check back with flyfisherman.com for continuing coverage of Montana's trout-population crisis.

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