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Montana FWCO
Mountain-Prairie Region
Graphic button showing the 8 state mountain prairie region

Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

2900 4th Avenue North, Room 301 | Billings, MT 59101-1228
Phone: (406)247-7365 | Fax: (406)247-7357 | E-mail: george_jordan@fws.gov

Bozeman and Lewistown sub-office contact information »


Montana FWCO - Bozeman sub-office
4052 Bridger Canyon Road | Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: 406-585-9010 | Email: jim_mogen@fws.gov


Montana FWCO - Lewistown sub-office
333 Airport Road | Lewistown, MT 59457
Phone: 406-535-2800 | Fax: 406-586-6798 | Email: robbin_wagner@fws.gov

About the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

Station History | Our Activities | Tribal Technical Assistance | Fish Passage | Sikes Act | Partners | Open / Close All

About Us

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Program is comprised of 64 field stations nationwide. The Program fills a vital role in restoring and maintaining the health of the Nation’s fish and wildlife resources. The program functions like a general practitioner in the medical field: its biologists monitor the health of fish and wildlife resources, diagnose ailments, prescribe remedies, refer specific problems to specialists, and coordinate diverse efforts to restore and maintain health. The program helps avoid listing actions under the Endangered Species Act – or in other words, keeps the patient out of the intensive care unit. The American people benefit from healthier ecosystems and resulting increases in fishing and other recreational opportunities.


Station History »

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Kalispell Fishery Assistance Office was established November 1962 in Kalispell, Montana by order of President John F. Kennedy,. The station was established to provide fishery management services to the nearby Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Three other Montana reservations and Glacier National Park were receiving fishery assistance from the Portland, Oregon Fisheries Assistance Office. The logistical need to consolidate these Montana operations was apparent.

In March of 1980, the Kalispell Fishery Assistance Office was combined with the Creston National Fish Hatchery to officially form the Creston Fish and Wildlife Center. However, this was changed again in 1989 when the assistance office and hatchery were separated, with Project Leaders being appointed for each office. In 1990, the management assistance office reorganized when funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs was terminated and funding appropriation supported by the Montana Congressional delegation was once again returned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This transition, which provided a substantial increase in funding, enabled the management assistance office to reorganize and accommodate the growing demands for technical services. In July 1991, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established the Montana Fish and Wildlife Management Assistance Office (MT FWMAO) in Bozeman, Montana with sub-stations at Kalispell and Lewistown, Montana. This reorganization was done primarily to expedite the biological services provided to all Montana Indian Reservations, as well as, other Federal, State, and Service programs as requested.

During 1994, the Kalispell and Lewistown sub-stations were consolidated in Lewistown. This move was necessary to more centrally locate our technical assistance staff closer to the five (5) central and eastern Montana Indian reservations which receive most of our attention. During 1996, the MT FWMAO was further expanded to provide increased support for native fish conservation as a result of the closure of the Fishery Assistance Office in Yellowstone National Park.

Additional changes in staffing and funding occurred during 2010 when the Yellowstone River Coordinator’s Office and Northern Rockies FWCO were combined with the Montana FWCO for improved efficiencies and increased services for all partners.


Our Activities »

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Native Fish & Wildlife Conservation - Conserving imperiled fish and aquatic species and wildlife species – i.e. those in serious decline or listed under the Endangered Species Act – by planning, coordinating, implementing, and evaluating activities such as habitat restoration and captive propagation. Currently the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office is focused on three species:

Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus)
Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus)
Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri)
Native American Tribal Assistance - Fulfilling trust responsibilities to Native American tribal governments on reservations and in ceded territories. This includes managing fish and wildlife resources; restoring native species; recovering Threatened and endangered species; and restoring habitats etc.
Federal Lands Assistance - Assisting Federal land managers (e.g. Department of Defense) in fish and wildlife management on Federal lands and assisting National Wildlife Refuges in planning, managing, and restoring fisheries and aquatic resources.
Fish Passage - Restoring fish passage in streams where dams or other structures have obstructed access to habitats. This includes restoring flows.
Interjurisdictional Fisheries Assistance - Providing services to regional and interstate, fishery commissions and other organizations for Service trust species.
Aquatic Nuisance Species - Increasing public awareness of invasive species; and providing technical assistance to control and prevent invasive species.


Native Fish & Wildlife Conservation

  • Adult Arctic Grayling, the product of remote site incubators, returning to Elk Springs Creek, Red Rock Lakes Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife refuge. Credit: USFWS.

    Adult Arctic Grayling, the product of remote site incubators, returning to Elk Springs Creek, Red Rock Lakes Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife refuge. Credit: USFWS.

  • Remote site incubator placed in a spring to ensure oxygenated water is supplied to the fertilized eggs. Credit: USFWS.

    Remote site incubator placed in a spring to ensure oxygenated water is supplied to the fertilized eggs. Credit: USFWS.

  • Remote site incubator - fertilized eggs (left).  The resultant fry (lower right) hatch and are conveyed to the target stream via the spring’s flow.  Credit: USFWS.

    Remote site incubator - fertilized eggs (left). The resultant fry (lower right) hatch and are conveyed to the target stream via the spring’s flow. Credit: USFWS.

  • Returning an adult grayling back to its home.  Credit: USFWS.

    Returning an adult grayling back to its home. Credit: USFWS.

Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus)

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Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus) once existed throughout the Upper Missouri River drainage in Montana and represent the last known endemic population within the contiguous United States. Currently two life history forms persist that are isolated from each other; a fluvial (river dwelling) form in the Big Hole River and an adfluvial (lake dwelling but use streams to spawn in) form in the Red Rock Lakes of the Centennial Valley. Recently, the status of Arctic Grayling was re-assessed to evaluate if it met the criteria as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Through this review, an Upper Missouri River Arctic Grayling Distinct Population Segment (DPS) containing both life history forms was established and added to the candidate species list under ESA (75 FR 54708-54753) in September, 2010.

Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office biologists are actively involved in restoring spawning runs of the adfluvial form of Arctic Grayling to historically used streams within Red Rock Lakes NWR and to a nearby lake they formerly inhabited. Through the use of remote site incubators, we have successfully returned 130,000 grayling fry to Elk Springs Creek and 150,000 fry to Elk Lake over the past three seasons. This form of Arctic Grayling typically matures in two years and should return to their natal stream to join other year classes in establishing a sustainable spawning run. Plans call for continuing this restoration work over the next 3-5 years which is part of a larger effort to mitigate factors that affect the viability of the lake population and its long term survival.

The Montana FWCO has been working cooperatively with Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks since 1998 to gather information on the status of the lake dwelling form of Arctic Grayling residing in the Centennial Valley. This conservation partnership is essential for developing adaptive management strategies and actions necessary to help ensure this species persists into the future.


Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office biologist Jim Mogen with Bull Trout collected in the St. Mary River drainage, Montana.  Credit: USFWS.

Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office biologist Jim Mogen with Bull Trout collected in the St. Mary River drainage, Montana. Credit: USFWS.

Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus)

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Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus) have shown dramatic declines across the contiguous United States and, today, are known or predicted to inhabit watersheds in only 45 percent of their historic range. This decline is broadly attributed to anthropogenic factors (i.e., human-caused modifications of the aquatic environment including population fragmentation resulting from blockage of migration routes by dams and other barriers), hybridization or competition with introduced, nonnative fish species, and excessive harvest by anglers. This documented decline of Bull Trout led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to formally list the species as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1999. This listing included its historical range in the contiguous United States. One population of significance interest is the distinct populations segment (DPS) found in the St. Mary and Belly river drainages in Montana and Canada. This DPS is the only known Bull Trout population existing east of the Continental Divide in the United States.

Releasing a threatened Bull Trout collected as part of annual population monitoring efforts in the St. Mary River Drainage, Montana. Credit: Michael (Josh) Melton, USFWS.

Releasing a threatened Bull Trout collected as part of annual population monitoring efforts in the St. Mary River Drainage, Montana. Credit: Michael (Josh) Melton, USFWS.

In 1997, the Service’s Northern Rockies Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office began working cooperatively with the Blackfeet Tribe, Glacier National Park, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) to focus on gathering important information on the status and biology of the St. Mary River population. As a result of the ongoing research, we know that Bull Trout are widely distributed throughout the St. Mary River drainage in Montana. Both migratory and resident populations exist within the basin and spawning occurs annually in at least seven different tributaries. Timber harvest, livestock-grazing, mining, and non-native fish introductions do not appear to be major factors affecting this population. Much of the habitat is protected as it lies within Glacier National Park. The primary threats to Bull Trout in the St. Mary River drainage appear to be a migratory barrier, loss of juvenile and adult fish to entrainment in the St. Mary Canal, and other habitat loss associated with Reclamation’s Milk River Project.

Through our cooperative efforts and informal consultation, Reclamation currently is in the design and planning phase to implement Bull Trout conservation measures. Specifically, Reclamation is evaluating a new St. Mary River irrigation diversion and canal headworks facility to replace the existing structures that will incorporate fish-friendly structures that will potentially facilitate upstream passage and provide protection from entrainment (i.e., fish ladder and canal screen/bypass), an important step towards recovery and potential de-listing of this important and unique native Bull Trout population.


Juvenile Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout being released in waters of the Crow Reservation. Credit: Michael (Josh) Melton, USFWS.

Juvenile Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout being released in waters of the Crow Reservation. Credit: Michael (Josh) Melton, USFWS.

Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri)

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Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Range Expansions on the Crow Reservation In 1988, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office began assisting the Crow Tribe with fisheries management on their lands. Initial thinking was that all the native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout were extirpated or hybridized with non-native Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). However, our sampling collected Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri) from Rotten Grass Creek that first year, which phenotypically appeared pure. It wasn’t until 1993 that the Dryhead Creek and Big Bull Elk Creek populations of Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout were found. Genetic analysis confirmed the Big Bull Elk and Dryhead populations as 100% pure, while the Rotten Grass population was found to hybridized ( 98% Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout and 2% Westslope Cutthroat Trout). The Westslope Cutthroat Trout are believed to be the result of a 1917 fish car stocking. Subsequently, another 100% pure Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout population was found in Hay Creek in 1996. In an effort to replicate the Big Bull Elk Creek population, 87 adult fish were transferred to the adjacent fishless Little Bull Elk Creek in in 1999. Sampling efforts in 2001 and 2013 revealed this new population is flourishing. The Dryhead Creek population was extirpated during the severe drought during 2001- 2003. The Crow Tribe was awarded a Tribal Wildlife Grant and 2009 began an intensive search of all Reservation cold water streams; no new populations of Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout were discovered, but several miles of pristine habitat were. The Crow Tribe and Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office staff started stocking some of these selected streams with hatchery-reared Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout in 2011. To date, seven separate stream sections have been stocked helping to ensure survival of this native species within Crow tribal waters.


Tribal Technical Assistance »

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Map depicting approximate boundaries of Reservations in Montana. Credit: USFWS.
Map depicting approximate boundaries of Reservations in Montana. Credit: USFWS.

Map depicting approximate boundaries of Reservations in Montana. Credit: USFWS.

Blackfeet Reservation Flathead Reservation Rocky Boys Reservation Fort Belknap Reservation Fort Peck Reservation Crow Reservation Northern Cheyenne Reservation

Currently there are approximately six million acres of reservation land within Montana. Of this, approximately 5.4 million acres are trust acres over which the tribes have full jurisdiction. We provide technical assistance to Tribal governments to help them make informed decisions regarding their management of Tribal natural fish and wildlife resources. We strive to ensure that Tribal governments acquire and maintain the necessary data and expertise to professionally manage these resources. We help accomplish this through collaborative efforts including data collection and interpretation, natural resource personnel training, and facilitating Tribal planning efforts.

The Tribal Fish and Wildlife Directors representing Montana and Wyoming Tribes formed the Montana/Wyoming Tribal Fish and Wildlife Commission on February 12, 1998. Our Station works closely with the MT/WY Tribal Fish and Wildlife Commission to address regional issues affecting reservation fish and wildlife resources.

Formation of the Montana and Wyoming Tribal Fish and Wildlife Commission incorporates more than a present-day commitment to these resources. It represents a dedication to the earth that began with our own beginning, and a pledge to our fellow creatures that cannot be broken. The Montana and Wyoming Tribal Fish and Wildlife Commission is founded on the knowledge that without wild animals, our life would be deprived and demeaned. They move us through the great mystery of creation. "What is man without the beasts?" wrote the Duwamish Tribe Chief Seattle in 1855. "If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beast also happens to man. All things are connected."

For more information on the MWTFWC, please see also: Articles of Incorporation and Constitution and By-laws.


Fish Passage »

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The Montana FWCO has been working diligently with our partners to restore habitat connectivity within Montana and north-central Wyoming. Click on a project site below for more information.

Map depicting approximate boundaries of Reservations in Montana. Credit: USFWS.
Map depicting approximate boundaries of Reservations in Montana. Credit: USFWS.

Map depicting approximate boundaries of Reservations in Montana. Credit: USFWS.

Link One Link Two Link Three Link Four Link Five Link Six Link Seven Link Eight Link Nine Link Ten Link Eleven Link Twelve Link Thirteen Link Fourteen Link Fifteen Link Sixteen Link Seventeen Link Eighteen Link Nineteen

There are two primary programs through which the Montana FWCO works to restore habitat connectivity to benefit native aquatic species. These are:

National Fish Passage Program (NFPP). The primary purpose of the NFPP is to restore native fish and other aquatic species to self-sustaining levels by reconnecting habitat that barriers have fragmented. However, reconnections should not result in a net negative ecological effect, such as providing increased habitat to aquatic nuisance species. The program works on a voluntary basis with federal, state, and local agencies, as well as Native American Tribes and private partners and stakeholders.

National Fish Habitat Partnership (NFHP). The focus of the NFHP is to help protect, restore, and enhance fish and aquatic communities through partnerships that foster fish habitat conservation and improve the quality of life. Projects receiving funding under the NFHP must support the National Fish Habitat Action Plan recognized partnerships’ priorities.


Sikes Act »

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Managing recreational fishing opportunities in Powwow Pond, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, is only a small part of what we do under the Sikes Act. Credit: Robbin Wagner, USFWS.

Managing recreational fishing opportunities in Powwow Pond, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, is only a small part of what we do under the Sikes Act. Credit: Robbin Wagner, USFWS.

The Sikes Act recognizes the importance and value of the nearly 30 million acres of military lands to natural resources. The Sikes Act requires the Department of Defense to develop and implement Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans (INRMPs) for military installations. INRMPs are prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and State fish and wildlife agencies to ensure proper consideration of fish, wildlife, and habitat needs. INRMPs are required at almost 380 military installations across the Nation, and direct the management and use of the lands on these installations. Our office works closely with Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana with INRMP development and implementation. Additionally, we provide technical assistance to this base for management of recreational fishing opportunities.


Partners »

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The ability to work effectively across a landscape as diverse as Montana often involves working cooperatively with Tribal, state, and local government entities, landowners, conservation groups, as well as, other federal agencies. All the activities derived from this office have been developed in concert with the following groups as applicable:

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: April 08, 2015
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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