Per the Council's November 18, 2004, this is the ISRP's preliminary review of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks' (MDFWP) Master Plan for the Sekokini Springs Natural Rearing Facility and Educational Center (Hungry Horse Mitigation, Project # 1991-019-03). The Master Plan is intended to address artificial production activities at Sekokini Springs and the subsequent stocking of westslope cutthroat trout (WSCT) produced at the facility. The ISRP review focuses on the responses to the Council's Step review elements.
The Sekokini Springs program appears to be an integral part of a multi-faceted program to mitigate Hungry Horse/Flathead Lake cutthroat trout losses and would be a proactive step to bolster cutthroat numbers, helping avoid the need for ESA listing. The mitigation need is well demonstrated and ties are made to the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program and Artificial Production Review. The science is, for the most part, sufficiently sound, but reviewers raise several questions and concerns that need a response before we can make a final recommendation on the Master Plan. These concerns center around several large themes, not the least, is whether the project's goals can be achieved in a timely and cost effective manner by alternative means that focus on population transplants and habitat restoration activities rather than the proposed artificial production initiative.