LIMA, Mont. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has released for public review and comment a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). The Refuge, in partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Montana Trout Unlimited, and the U.S. Geological Survey, have completed this draft EA for the conservation of Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus, grayling). The proposed action is to improve overwinter conditions that ensure long-term, self-sustaining persistence of grayling in Upper Red Rock Lake (URRL) and the Upper Missouri River.
Grayling are a species of salmonid that reside in the Upper Missouri River drainage in southwestern Montana. Grayling indigenous to the Upper Missouri River currently persist only in the Big Hole River drainage and in the Centennial Valley. Much of the Centennial Valley grayling population migrates into URRL for the winter. Grayling in the URRL are genetically distinct from populations elsewhere in the Upper Missouri River and have recently undergone significant declines in abundance. Primary winter habitat in URRL is critically important for continued existence of the species.
The draft EA presents six alternatives for improving overwinter survival of grayling in URRL and assesses respective impacts to natural and recreational resources. The proposed action would enhance winter habitat for grayling by increasing dissolved oxygen levels in deeper portions of URRL where grayling overwinter, to improve grayling winter survival and maintain existing grayling genetic variability.
The Service appreciates public input to assist refining the draft EA and inform our final decision. A copy of the draft EA can be reviewed on the Refuge website Library at: https://www.fws.gov/media/urrldrafteafinal508c22423pdf
A 15-day public comment period for the draft EA will run from February 28 through March 14, 2023. Comments can be submitted by email to: email@example.com or by mail to: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, NWRS Planning Division, P.O. Box 25486 DFC, Denver, CO 80225.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.
– FWS –