Council adopts fish and wildlife protection plan for Montana’s Blackfoot River

The Council added a fish and wildlife protection plan for the Blackfoot River in western Montana to its Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program this week, paving the way for potential funding to improve fish and wildlife habitat and production.

"The Blackfoot River has a strong history of locally led conservation and restoration efforts, and this subbasin plan represents another positive, collaborative effort by private landowners, government agencies, and public interest groups to benefit fish and wildlife in the basin," Chair Bruce Measure, a Montana member of the Council, said.

Dick Wallace, a Washington member and vice chair of the Council, joined other Council members in supporting adoption of the plan, a vote that for him was personal as well as professional. "As a Montana native who grew up around the Blackfoot, I am pleased to see this plan come together for the protection of fish and wildlife in this beautiful river," Wallace said.

With addition of the Blackfoot plan, there are 58 subbasin plans in the Council’s fish and wildlife program, including plans for three other river basins in Montana, the Bitterroot, Flathead, and Kootenai.

Subbasin plans include an assessment of fish, wildlife, and habitat and thus provide the context for the Council and its Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) to evaluate and recommend projects for funding to implement the fish and wildlife program. The program is designed to mitigate the impacts of hydropower dams on fish and wildlife in the Columbia River Basin.

The program also addresses impacts not caused by hydropower, such as in river basins like the Blackfoot and Bitterroot. The Northwest Power Act, the federal law that directs the Council’s activities, authorizes offsite — away from the dams — protection and mitigation measures to compensate for fish and wildlife losses arising from the development and operation of the dams.

The Council is an agency of the states of Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and is charged by the Northwest Power Act of 1980 to assure the Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical, and reliable electric power supply while also protecting, mitigating, and enhancing fish and wildlife affected by the construction and operation of hydropower dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries.