Rules and Regulations

Smith Lake WPA sign 512x219

There are a lot of fun, interesting, and educational things you can do on the Wetland Management District. Keep in mind, if an activity is not wildlife related and doesn’t help in the protection or understanding of wildlife or their habitat, there are probably refuge rules governing this activity. Please check with the Wetland Management District Office if you have any questions. Be safe and have fun!  


Recreational Opportunities and Visitor Information

The Northwest Montana Wetland Management District Flathead County consists of five separate Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA) –Batavia WPA, Blasdel WPA, Flathead WPA, McGregor Meadows WPA and Smith Lake WPA.

Many wildlife-oriented recreational opportunities are available on the Flathead County WMD including hunting, fishing, photography, wildlife observation, and hiking. The visitor information that follows will help insure that your Flathead County WMD visit will be safe and enjoyable.

Please observe all the following regulations to protect yourself and WPA resources. Activities not described below are prohibited on the Flathead County WMD. Contact Refuge staff to inquire about regulations or Flathead County WMD operations (See Brochure).

General Regulations

All WPAs are closed to the public from March 1 to July 15 to protect ground nesting birds.

Outside of the closed period of March 1 to July 15, all WPAs are open from 1 hour before sunrise to 1 hour after sunset. Overnight parking, camping and/or fires are prohibited.

Parking is authorized in designated areas only. Blocking roads or gates is prohibited.

Collecting, injuring, disturbing, destroying, or harming any animal, animal part (including antlers) or plants is prohibited unless authorized.

Pets must be kept on a leash at all times, except during a State-approved hunting season when hunting dogs must be under the immediate control of the hunter at all times.

Commercial dog trials are prohibited.

Horses and horseback riding are prohibited.

Wildlife Observation, Photography, and Hiking

Visitors are encouraged to observe or photograph wildlife, hike, cross-country ski, or snowshoe throughout the Flathead County WMD, except when WPAs are closed from March 1 to July 15 (closed due to ground nesting birds).

All commercial filming requires a permit. Still photography does not require a permit unless it is commercial and it uses a model, set or prop; or the agency determines a permit is necessary because it takes place in a closed area; or the agency would incur costs from the activity.

Mechanized Vehicles

Mechanized vehicles including motorcycles, snowmobiles, and all-terrain vehicles are not permitted on Flathead County WMD lands.

Off-road vehicle travel is not permitted for retrieving downed game.

Hunting

Persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on WPAs must comply with all provisions of State and local law. Persons may only use (discharge) firearms in accordance with National Wildlife Refuge regulations (50 CFR 27.42 and specific refuge regulations in 50 CFR Part 32).

The use of firearms is only permitted during authorized hunting seasons.

Hunting on the Flathead County WMD is subject to Federal and State regulations. Consult all current Federal and State regulations prior to hunting on the Refuge. A Montana hunting license is required.

Hunting, fishing, and trapping are permitted on WPAs according to Federal and State regulations. Flathead, Blasdel, and Batavia WPAs are restricted to hunting with archery equipment, shotgun, traditional handgun, muzzleloader, or crossbow only. Only approved non-toxic shot may be used or possessed when hunting upland game birds and waterfowl.

The use of artificial lights and/or electronic calls to attract, search for, or spot wildlife is prohibited.

Portable or temporary blinds or tree stands are permitted, but must be removed on a daily basis. The use of nails, wire, screws, or bolts to attach a stand to a tree, or hunting from a tree into which a metal object has been driven to support a hunter is prohibited.

Pets must be kept on a leash at all times, except during a State-approved hunting season when hunting dogs must be under the immediate control of the hunter at all times.

Guiding or outfitting is prohibited.

The unauthorized distribution of bait and the hunting over bait is prohibited.

The use or possession of alcoholic beverages while hunting is prohibited.

Firearms

Persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on National Wildlife Refuge System lands must comply with all provisions of State and local law. Persons may only use (discharge) firearms in accordance with refuge regulations (50 CFR 27.42 and specific refuge regulations on hunting in 50 CFR Part 32).

Target shooting is not allowed.

Fishing

Fishing is permitted on WPAs according to Federal and State regulations.

Trapping

Trapping is permitted on WPAs according to Federal and State regulations.

Boating 

Motorized boating is allowed on Flathead Lake, Smith Lake and the Flathead River. Motorboats must be operated at no wake speeds. Non-motorized boating is permitted on WPAs only outside the nesting closed period – March 1 – July 15.

Camping

Camping is not permitted on the WPAs.

Fires

Fires are not permitted on the WPAs.

Aircraft

Aircraft of any kind may not land on the Refuge, except in an emergency situation. Refuges are classified under FAA Aeronautical Charts as Special Conservation Areas with a 2000’ minimum altitude request.

The use of aircraft over Refuge lands to disturb, harass, drive, or hunt wildlife, or to locate wounded animals, is strictly prohibited.

Collection of Natural Items and Artifacts

Collecting, injuring, disturbing, destroying, or harming animals, animal parts, plants, natural items, objects of antiquity, public property, and private property is prohibited unless authorized by permit. This includes but not limited to shed antlers, rocks, fossils, firewood, willow cuttings, historical artifacts, semi-precious minerals, etc.

Collection of shed antlers and animal skulls is illegal. These items are an important source of renewable calcium for elk, deer, and other wildlife on the Refuge.

There are many interesting historic buildings on the Refuge. Please enjoy them as they are, and do not remove parts of the buildings or artifacts found within or around them.

When in doubt about any regulation or for further information, contact Refuge staff or the Refuge Manager.