Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

For Immediate Release

September 24, 2012


Kathy Burchett, USFWS, 406.727.7400 ext. 222

Gary Bertellotti, MTFWP, 406.454.5846



Aerial view of Benton Lake NWR. Credit: USFWS
Aerial view of prairie potholes at Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) are developing an approach for water management at  Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) that will address selenium contamination, invasive species, and public use at the refuge.

In February 2008, the Service began work on a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for the Benton Lake NWR Complex. The Service and our conservation partners identified selenium contamination and the declining condition of the Benton Lake NWR wetlands as important issues to consider in the conservation plan. The Service released a draft CCP and environmental assessment for Benton Lake NWR Complex for a 60-day public review and comment period from March 30 to June 1, 2012. During the comment period, the Service held a series of public meetings at various locations in Montana to solicit input on the draft plan for the Benton Lake NWR Complex. Public participation in these meetings and in the CCP review process was strong: nearly 60 people, many of whom provided oral comments, attended these meetings and more than 50 additional people provided comments via e-mail and letters. While the majority of comments we received indicated support for the overall direction of the larger refuge complex, comments specific to the management of the Benton Lake NWR, located north of Great Falls, varied widely.

In response to these public comments, and pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service will collaborate with FWP in a structured decision making (SDM) process to develop a management alternative that will address key management issues and objectives the Service has identified, as well as those identified by the public such as recreational hunting wildlife observation, invasive species management, water management, watershed concerns, and selenium treatments. SDM is a process often used by natural resources management agencies to address complex issues and involves a facilitated discussion among and between agency representatives to consider science, management and policy questions in an effort to develop a consensus-based solution to an issue.

The SDM process for Benton Lake NWR will be held October 1-5, 2012 in Great Falls, Montana. The Service encourages the public join a facilitated discussion October 1, 3 to 7 pm at the StayBridge Suites, 201 3rd Street Northwest, to learn about SDM, review a summary of the public comments, and share recommendations for alternatives that meet refuge selenium and habitat objectives, and provide opportunities for wildlife-dependent public use. The Service and FWP will use the input from the public to inform the SDM process going forward. Following the SDM process, the Service and FWP will share with and explain to the public the approach we identify to address water management issues at Benton Lake NWR.


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