The following editorial appeared in Daily Inter Lake editorial, Saturday, August 31. 2013 concerning the CSKT’s Gill Netting Plan: 

Gill Netting Plan is Too Full of Holes

Senator Verdell Jackson along with a host of other current and former legislators sent the following comments to Bonneville Power Administration and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council concerning this plan.  In addition to the names listed below, we understand three others have been added to the list, Senator Jeff Essman Billings, president of the Montana Senate, Representative Pat Ingraham Thompson Falls, and Senator Chas Vincent Libby:

Attention:  Bonneville Power Administration and Northwest Power and Conservation Council

Comments on Gillnetting Lake Trout Out of Flathead Lake:

Please, add our names to the names of officials and the general public members who are adamantly opposed to the destruction of Lake Trout in Flathead Lake.  We learned a few days ago that Bonneville Power plans to provide a million dollars per year for the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe to pursue the aggressive option of killing 75% of the Lake Trout over 18 inches long by gillnetting. We believe that this option will quickly destroy the charter fishing businesses and make it very difficult for the thousands of local people to catch fish. We believe that the studies and especially the modeling done by the tribe contradict what we know from experience.  Also, we have not heard from the Yellow Bay Lab on their study to determine the impact on the water quality of Flathead Lake by an increase in mysis shrimp as a result of dramatically reducing lake trout who feed on the mysis shrimp.  More shrimp means less zooplankton and increased potential for algae blooms on the lake.

The general population is not aware of this plan because public hearings were not advertised and the main hearing in Pablo did not allow any public comment.  Legislators, county commissioners and other public officials did not receive notices from Bonneville Power as we usually do, e.g. Columbia River Treaty.  The public’s right to know was violated. Fortunately, the Daily InterLake wrote the attached editorial which has triggered phone calls and e-mails to us.  The concluding sentence in the editorial is consistent with our belief:  “The benefits have not been justified, compared to the costs and risks that come with this project.”

Charter fishing businesses are presently being adversely impacted by the Mack Fishing Derby.  One charter fishing business indicated that his daily catches in the derby area decreased after the derby by 50%, from 10 fish to 5.  What a waste of money.  Every person who pays an electric bill is paying for this effort to kill lake trout which directly decreases their potential to catch fish.

Besides having a huge impact on our tourism economy on which we are more dependent because our timber industry crashed several years ago as law suits stopped timber harvest, there is the huge cost which comes from everyone hooked up to electricity.  We learned recently that Bonneville Power is raising electricity rates again.

Contrary to statements made about the fish going to food banks, gillnetting has a very significant detrimental impact on the quality of the fish being caught because of the time factor, processing, storage, and health regulations.  Very few if any of the thousands of fish killed will make it to the food banks.

The bull trout populations are stable in the Flathead.  Bringing populations back to historical levels is a misuse of the Endangered Species Act, similar to what has been done with the wolves.  The result will be that the lake trout fishery will be gone and it will be illegal to keep the bull trout we catch.  We are very fortunate now to have a lake where we can take our kids and grandkids and catch fish almost every time.

In conclusion, the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes is a sovereign nation with its own constitution.  They are not accountable to the State of Montana or to the 300,000 people in western Montana who enjoy the fishing opportunities in Flathead Lake. Gillnetting is a very bad idea. To the general public, lake trout and bull trout look identical.  Nets kill every thing that gets caught. Millions will be spent and our world class fishery will be lost.

Sincerely,

  • Representative Mark Blasdel, HD 10, P. O. Box 291, Somers, Speaker of the Montana House
  • Senator John C. Brenden, SD 18, P. O. Box 970, Scobey, Senate Chair of Fish, Wildlife & Parks
  • Representative Jeffrey Welborn, HD 72, 383 Antelope Dr., Dillon, House Chair of Fish, Wildlife & Parks
  • Representative Doug Kary, HD 48, 1945 Clark Ave., Billings, House Vice-chair of Fish, Wildlife & Parks
  • Former Senator Joe Balyeat, SD 34, 6909 Rising Eagle Rd, Bozeman, Vice Chair of Fish, Wildlife & Parks
  • Former Senator Greg Hinkle, SD 7, 5 Gable Road, ThompsonFalls, Senate, Fish, Wildlife & Parks
  • Senator Jenifer Fielder, SD 7, Box 2558, Thompson Fall, Senate, Fish Wildlife & Parks
  • Senator Verdell Jackson, SD 5, 555 Wagner Lane, Kalispell, Senate Natural Resources
  • Senator Jon Sonju, SD 4, P. O. Box 2954, Kalispell
  • Senator Dee Brown, SD 2, Box 444, Hungry Horse
  • Senator Janna   Taylor, SD 6, Box 233, Dayton
  • Representative Steve Lavin, HD 8, P. O. Box 11241, Kalispell
  • Representative Keith Regier, HD 5, 1078 Stillwater Rd., Kalispell, House Federal Relations & Energy
  • Representative Carl Glimn, 5107 Ashley Rd., Kila
  • Representative Scott Reichner, 78 Red Tail Rdg, Bigfork
  • Representative Greg Hertz, HD11, 38258 Pinewood Dr., Polson
  • Representative Randy Brodehl, HD 7, 16 White Bark, Kalispell
  • Representative Jerry O’Neil, HD 3, 985 Walsh Road, Kalispell
  • Former Representative Derek Skees, HD 4, P. O. Box 5331, Whitefish
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