March 12, 2007
For immediate release:
DILLON, Mont.—The Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to lease 27,000 acres along southwest Montana’s Beaverhead River for eventual oil and gas drilling puts one of the world’s best-known trout fisheries at risk and could harm the recreation-based economy in Dillon and the surrounding area, said Montana Trout Unlimited spokesman Michael Gibson on Friday.
“This is one of the most popular fisheries, not just in Montana, but in the entire country,” Gibson said, noting that MTU plans to officially protest the planned lease on behalf of TU members in Montana and across the nation. “Drilling for oil and gas in this area would be an affront to the thousands of anglers and other sportsmen who value this area for its high-quality habitat and wildlife resources. While Trout Unlimited isn’t opposed to oil and gas development, when we weigh the values, this lease sale is simply irresponsible.”
According to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Beaverhead is one of the state’s 10 most-popular fisheries—in 2003, for instance, anglers spent 27,000 fishing days on the water pursuing trophy brown trout and rainbow trout.
“There’s no question this is hallowed water,” said Corey Fisher, a field coordinator for Trout Unlimited based in Missoula. “This river sits at or near the top of everyone’s list when it comes to rivers in the West. This is one of those rivers most anglers dream of fishing before they die. Drilling in this area could have some very detrimental impacts on the fishery and on the thousands of fishermen who cherish this water.”
The Beaverhead is a tailwater stream below Clark Canyon Dam, a man-made impoundment along Interstate 15 south of Dillon. The river has earned its reputation for producing big, challenging trout mainly because of its prolific insect hatches, its pristine habitat and its accessibility. Coupled with Clark Canyon Reservoir above the dam, the area boasts a fishery that is unmatched anywhere else in the West, Gibson said.
“This river has been through so much in recent years, considering the heavy use it endures and the impacts from a recent drought,” Gibson said. “Drilling for oil and gas in the area might well be the one thing that has a lasting impact on the fishery.”
The river’s productivity is the backbone of the summertime economy in Dillon and the surrounding area. The river attracts thousands of anglers every summer, which helps employ fishing guides, fly and tackle shop employees, as well as hotel, convenience store and restaurant employees in the region.
“The river and its trout represent a long-term, renewable resource that will be productive for generations if it’s cared for,” Fisher said. “As important as energy exploration is today, it’s just as important to protect special places like the Beaverhead for our children and grandchildren.”
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization in the country, boasting over 150,000 members from coast to coast.