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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

May 30, 2001
Contacts: Tom Pruitt 406-682-4847
Mark Maskill 406-758-6868
Karen Gleason 303-236-7917x431

National Fish Hatcheries in Montana Under New Leadership

New Hatchery Managers have taken over operations at Ennis National Fish Hatchery in Ennis, Montana and the Creston National Fish Hatchery in Kalispell, Montana, both run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal hatcheries produce fish and eggs that are supplied to Montana waters and to areas outside of the state.

Mark Maskill, the new manager at Creston, returns to the hatchery after a three-year assignment as Fish Hatchery and Fish Health Team Leader in the Great Lakes Regional headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Maskill has worked for the Service for over 21 years in seven states.

Maskill will direct the hatchery’s fish production, which focuses on the restoration of native bull trout and cutthroat trout, tribal fishery programs, and mitigating for fish lost due to impacts on their habitat by the operation of dams. One of his first tasks will be to direct the construction of a new system to capture spring water, to keep the hatchery water supply free from pathogens such as whirling disease, and help increase fish production.

Tom Pruitt comes to Ennis to replace retired Hatchery Manager Wes Orr, who served the hatchery for two decades and the National Fish Hatchery System for 38 years. Pruitt, also a long-time Service veteran, has worked 27 years in the federal government in 10 states and received a Top 10 Outstanding Employees Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1989. He has worked at five other National Fish Hatcheries, managing three of those.

"Many Americans are unaware that the work of our National Fish Hatcheries is the best return you will ever find on an investment of your tax dollar," said Ralph Morgenweck, Director of the Service’s eight-state Mountain-Prairie Region. "For these two hatcheries in Montana alone, we are able to take an annual operating budget of less than $500,000 and within a single year put

$55 million worth of recreational value back into the economy." Both Maskill and Pruitt will be working closely with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks managers to meet the challenges of providing fish for Montana waters.

"The work of the National Fish Hatcheries also provides quality fishing for millions of Americans, a pay-off in personal relaxation and quality family time which cannot be measured in dollars," added Morgenweck.

"We are also striving through work on restoration of habitat and recovery of native fish to preserve these valuable fishery resources for many generations into the future."

Ennis National Fish Hatchery provided 20 million eggs from six strains of rainbow trout to federal, state, and tribal hatcheries, fish technology centers, and research facilities in 26 states, helping generate 5 million angler days valued at $50 million for the year. Creston National Fish Hatchery produced and distributed 1 million fish to over 60 tribal and state waters, and 10,000 bull trout eggs for research, generating over 100,000 angler days valued at over $5 million.

"Yet our Fisheries program is literally falling apart, and even routine maintenance hasn’t kept pace with current needs," added Morgenweck. "Our field folks are very adept at duct-taping and gerry-rigging things together to keep the program afloat, but if we don’t act soon to implement major maintenance projects and protect this investment, anglers and the angling economy in this country will sustain great losses."

The FY 2000 unfunded facility maintenance needs alone approach $2 million at Ennis National Fish Hatchery and $3.2 million at Creston National Fish Hatchery.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

For more information about the Mountain-Prairie Fisheries Program, including information on the locations of fish stocked by National Fish Hatcheries in the region, please visit our website at


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