Sen. Thomas says solution to Bitterroot River access problems must be practical

Posted at 3:14 PM, May 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 15:09:23-04

STEVENSVILLE – Montana State Senator Fred Thomas says any solution to the issue of Bitterroot River access in Stevensville must strike a balance between public use and what’s practical.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are unveiling an initial scheme to solve the complicated issues for the riverside access just north of Stevensville, and are recommending the location become a formal Fishing Access Site, using land donated by the owner.

But Sen. Thomas is cautioning people who believe it should be a new state park.

“Yeah, we’ve got to keep this whole thing in balance. One is money. You know, there’s a limit there. And two, is we don’t own this site yet. We’ve only have a lease on it,” Sen. Thomas said.

“The landowner has been very generous, saying ‘I’m going to give you a lease. We’re going to work on this.’ I think as long as we keep this within the parameters of reason and balance we can get this accomplished. But we’re going to have to be reasonable as citizens and limit our ‘shoot for the moon’ ideas,” he added.

During a Wednesday evening public meeting in Stevensville FWP staff explained that making the location a formal fishing access means the state would make basic improvements, and provide enforcement and cleanup.

There could even be some primitive camping and pit toilets installed but some residents want the state to consider a broader plan, even going so far as to establish a state park.

Sen. Thomas says some of those suggestions are helpful, as long as they fit within what’s possible.

“Well that’s why we really do have public hearings frankly is because the public always has great ideas, whether they’re accomplishable right now or not,” Sen. Thomas said.

“But some of these ideas here tonight were phenomenal, in the sense that they were talking about parking, and where it should be and have much and what have you. Great stuff,” Sen. Thomas added.

FWP would like to construct the fishing access site this fall if the plans can be finalized.

Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News