TRAVEL MONTANA FIRE & DROUGHT UPDATE July 25, 2007 12:00 p.m. Current Drought-Related Restrictions as of: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 Montana fisheries managers are asking anglers to limit fishing on some Montana rivers due to low flows and high water temperatures. The restrictions are in place to protect Montana’s world-class wild trout fisheries. With increased water temperatures and reduced river flows, catching and handling fish adds an additional stress on the fish. Anglers are encouraged to seek alternatives such as cooler parts of rivers, reservoirs, mountain lakes and tributary streams where temperatures are not as high. Mandatory Restrictions: 24-Hour Closure: The following rivers are currently closed to fishing 24 hours a day: Upper Big Hole River The closure encompasses the stretch of the river from Rock Creek Road (approximately five miles south of Wisdom) to the mouth of the North Fork (15 miles north of Wisdom). The remaining 137 miles of the Big Hole River are still open to angling. Including the 35 miles upstream of the closed reach and 102 miles of the popular sport fishery downstream from the North Fork to the mouth of the Big Hole River at Twin Bridges. Blackfoot River Tributaries Belmont Creek, Copper Creek, Cottonwood Creek, Gold Creek, Landers Fork, Monture Creek, Morrell Creek and the North Fork Blackfoot River 2 p.m. to 12 midnight Closure: Montana’s string of hot weather has led state officials to close a number of rivers to fishing between the hours of 2 p.m. and midnight. The closures will remain in effect until September 15 or when conditions improve significantly. Bitterroot River Lower Bitterrroot from Tucker Crossing (near Victor) to the confluence with the Clark Fork River in Missoula. Blackfoot River The entire Blackfoot River from the headwaters near Rogers Pass to the confluence with the Clark Fork River at Milltown. Boulder River (Tributary of the Yellowstone River) 8-Mile Bridge downstream to its confluence with the Yellowstone River Clark Fork River 137 miles of river from the mouth of Rock Creek near Clinton to the confluence with the Flathead River. East Gallatin River East Gallatin River from its beginning (Rocky and Sourdough Creek confluence) to its confluence with the West Gallatin Gallatin River The main stem of the Gallatin from the Interstate 90 bridge down- stream about 19 miles to the confluence with the Missouri River. Jefferson River Entire river. Madison River Lower main stem of the Madison River from Ennis Dam downstream to the mouth at Three Forks. Shields River Shield's River from the headwaters to the confluence with the Yellowstone River Smith River The entire 125-mile mainstem of the river, which flows from near White Sulphur Springs to the mouth near Ulm. Stillwater River – NEW (Region 5, Central Fishing District) Rosebud Creek downstream to its confluence with the Yellowstone River Sun River Sun River from Diversion Dam at the mouth of the Sun River Canyon to its mouth at Great Falls, 97 miles downstream. Thompson River Entire river. Yellowstone River Yellowstone River from the Yellowstone National Park boundary near Gardiner in Region 3 to the Huntley diversion downstream of Billings in Region 5. For a map of fishing closures, visit: http://fwp.mt.gov/content/getItem.aspx?id=19583 For further details on the restrictions, visit: http://fwp.mt.gov/fishing/guide/waterclosure.aspx Mandatory Restrictions: Yellowstone National Park: Effective Saturday, July 21, the following rivers and creeks within the park will be closed to fishing between the hours of 2:00 pm and 5:00 am: Northern Yellowstone: Gardner River below Osprey Falls, Lava Creek below Undine Falls, Lamar River below Cache Creek, all of Slough Creek, Soda Butte Creek below Amphitheater Creek, and the Yellowstone River below Seven Mile Hole. West side of the park: Madison River, Firehole River below Keppler Cascades, and the Gibbon River below Gibbon Falls. Southern portion of Yellowstone: Bechler River below Ouzel Creek, Falls River below Rainbow Falls, Mountain Ash Creek below Union Falls, Proposition Creek, Boundary Creek below Dunanda Falls, Robinson Creek, and the Snake River below Six Mile Ford. This fishing advisory will remain in effect until further notice. Anglers are voluntarily being asked not to fish between 5:00 am and 2:00 pm in these same waters in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone NP Fishing Advisory Map Current Fire Activity as of: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 12:00 pm On July 16, Governor Schweitzer issued an executive order declaring a statewide emergency in Montana "which warrants an aggressive initial attack on all wildland fire starts in Montana." This order allows the Governor to mobilize state resources and the Montana National Guard to fight fires as well as expend funds for emergency needs. A map of locations of the major fires in Montana can be found at: http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/ For the most up-to-date information on fires in Montana, visit: http://www.inciweb.org/state/27/ Gold West Country: AHORN FIRE – Lewis and Clark NF, near the Benchmark Trailhead and 30 miles west of Augusta. 14,900 acres. Structure-protection is in effect of buildings in Gibson Reservoir and Benchmark areas, West Fork Pack Bridge, Pretty Prairie, and Indian Point Cabins. An evacuation order is in effect for all residents from the Benchmark Trailhead area to the Wood Lake Campground. This portion of the road is now closed until further notice. “Pre- evacuation” notices have been issued to the Klick Ranch and Gibson Reservoir area The fire has crossed the West Fork of the South Fork of the Sun River and burned north into the Pretty Prairie Cabin area. Crews began constructing line from Benchmark Road in the Ford Creek area, north towards Gibson Reservoir. Crews are also burning around the Pretty Prairie cabin. A temporary flight restriction (TFR) is in place for a five-mile radius around the fire and 10,500 feet above ground level. Several trails have been temporarily closed for public safety in the fire area. The need for future closures will continue to be evaluated. Most of the area involved is in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, east of the Continental Divide. For trail closure information refer to the website contact the Lewis and Clark National Forest at (406) 791- 7754 or click here for a list of Trail Closures and map: http://inciweb.org/incident/announcements/article/805/4167/ Public bulletin boards about fire information is available at Senor Center and that the Post Office in Augusta. A public meeting will be held at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, July 25, at the Stage Stop Inn in Choteau concerning the Ahorn and Fool Creek fires. PATTENGAIL CREEK FIRE – Beaverhead / Deerlodge NF. It is currently about 10 miles northeast of Wisdom in the Stone Lakes area. 4,256 acres The Beaverhead – Deerlodge National Forests (in the West Pioneer Mountains) has temporarily closed the area north of Lacy and McVey Creek and west of the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway all the way to the forest boundary east and south of Highway 43. The east Pioneers and south half of the west Pioneers remain open for recreation opportunities or contact the Beaverhead – Deerlodge National Forest (406) 83-3900 or http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/bdnf/ for information. Structure-protection assessment for the area is now being conducted. No structures are considered threatened at this time, and no evacuations have been ordered. The Beaverhead - Deerlodge National Forest will be entering Stage 2 fire restrictions on Thursday, July 26th. A public meeting will be held at the Wise River Community Center, Wednesday, July 25th at 7:30 pm. LITTLE WOLF CREEK – It is located 46 miles west of Great Falls, or 7 miles west of Wolf Creek along Hwy 434. 570 acres. Structure-protection firefighters are assessing needs and “pre- evacuation notices” have been issued to area residents The fire is in “mop up” stage NOVAK FIRE – It is located 10 miles southwest of Cascade, located near I-15, exit 244. 1,750 acres. Structure protection is underway. The fire is now 50% contained Portions for I-15 northbound may experience one-lanes due to fire spotting and smoke, but are currently open. NOTE: Vehicles traveling on I-15 should not stop to view or photograph the fire. Motorists should be driving with their lights on at safe driving speeds. MERIWETHER FIRE – It is the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area and the Helena National Forest, about 37 miles northwest of Helena. 2,000 acres National Forest officials have temporarily closed the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area, as well as Coulter Campground along the Missouri River. Meriwether day use area and the Gates of the Mountains Boat Tour are open. Campgrounds along Holter Reservoir (BLM) remain open. “Moderate suppression” methods are being used for unsafe firefighting conditions, as the fire is in rugged terrain and dense fuels. Russell Country: FOOL CREEK FIRE – It is located in the Fool Creek drainage of the upper North Fork Sun River in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, approximately 36 miles west of Choteau. Fire is completely within the Bob Marshall Wilderness. 5,706 acres on the Lewis & Clark National Forest and 558 acres on the Flathead National Forest. The Fool Creek Fire is expected to be a long-term event that will require management until the end of fire season in the fall. There is a temporary flight restriction (TFR) in place in a 10 mile radius around the fire. Several trails have been temporarily closed for public safety in the fire area. Most of the area involved is in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, east of the Continental Divide. The need for future closures will continue to be evaluated. For trail closure information refer to the Flathead National Forest website (http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/flathead) or contact the Rocky Mountain Ranger District Office (406) 466-5341 or the Spotted Bear Ranger District Office (406)758-5376 or click here for a list of Trail Closures -- http://www.inciweb.org/incident/announcements/article/776/4081/ A public meeting will be held at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, July 25 at the Stage Stop Inn in Choteau concerning the Ahorn and Fool Creek fires. Glacier Country: CONGER FIRE – (NEW) Lightening fire began on July 15, approximately 20 miles north of Ovando. 350 acres A wildland fire use module is currently on site establishing communications and preparing fire maps. Structure protection crews are moving into the North Fork Trailhead, Cabin and Bridge, in case fire continues to progress towards the area. GARCEAU FIRE – (NEW) – Located 11 miles southwest of Polson. 3,000 acres Evacuation and standby notices given to Irvine Flats area residents Structure protection is in place. SKYLAND FIRE – (NEW) – The fire is located inside the Great Bear Wilderness, about 13 miles east of Essex and 3 miles south of Marias pass. 420 acres The following trails and roads are temporarily closed or restricted: Skyland Road No. 569 that accesses Great Bear Wilderness on the Mission Creek and Granite Creek Trails Mule Ridge, East Skyland, Elk Calf Mountain and Puzzle Ridge Trails Alternative access and trails options are available by contacting the Hungry Horse Ranger District at (406) 387- 3800. Yellowstone National Park: NOTE: Fire restrictions are now in place in Yellowstone National Park. For details, go to http://www.nps.gov/yell/parknews/0734.htm OWL FIRE – This backcountry fire in Yellowstone National Park is 45 miles south of Bozeman, along the Montana / Wyoming border away from roads and developed areas. 1,200 acres All visitor services, park entrances and roads are open. The Specimen Creek Trailhead and other trails and backcountry campsites are temporarily closed. Details are available at (307) 344-2160 or (307) 344-2580 or www.nps.gov/yell/parkmgmt/firemanagement.htm A temporary flight restriction (TFR) is in airspace over the Owl Fire. Current Air Quality as of: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 – 12:00 pm Montana DEQ will be issuing daily forest fire smoke updates for the duration of summer. The reports are generally posted before noon. Occasional afternoon updates may be posted if deemed necessary. Residents experiencing smoke impacts should use the VISIBILITY GUIDELINES to evaluate their situation and guide their actions. The primary cause of smoke is from Idaho fires and some Montana fires, depending on location. Wednesday, July 25th Air Quality was updated at 10:00 a.m. at http://www.deq.state.mt.us/FireUpdates/index.asp Current Fire Restrictions as of: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 12:00 pm This link provides a useful state map visual of current fire restrictions. It is updated whenever there is a change in restriction status. http://fwphlnweb001/content/getItem.aspx?id=28381 Numerous Montana state parks and fishing access across the state are under Stage I fire restrictions. For a complete list, go to: http://fwp.mt.gov/drought/firestatus.aspx The following counties are under Stage 1 Fire Restrictions: Beaverhead, Big Horn, Broadwater, Carbon, Deer Lodge, Flathead, Granite, Hill, Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, Lincoln Madison, Meagher, Mineral, Missoula, Musselshell, Ravalli, Powell, Sanders, Silver Bow, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, and Yellowstone. In addition, parts of Lake, Gallatin and Park are under Stage 1 restrictions as well. Glacier National Park Beginning July 27, the following counties will have Stage 1 Fire Restrictions: Blain, Chouteau, Daniels, Fergus, Golden Valley, Judith, Petroleum, Phillips, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Valley, and Wheatland. The following counties are under Stage 2 Fire Restrictions: Lake, Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli, Sanders, Treasure and parts of Madison, Missoula, and Gallatin. Beginning July 30, the following counties will have Stage 2 Fire Restrictions: Portions of Lincoln and Flathead County Portions of Lewis & Clark County and Flathead County located in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area have a “closed” fire restriction. Stage 1 Restrictions: The following acts are prohibited until further notice: • Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire except within a developed recreation site or improved site. • Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three (3) feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials. Stage 2 Restrictions: The following acts are prohibited until further notice: • Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire or campfire. • Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three (3) feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials. The following acts are prohibited from 1:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.: • Operating any internal combustion engine. • Welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame. • Using an explosive. • A patrol is required for two hours following cessation of all work as described above. • Operating motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails. This link provides a user-friendly guide intended to clarify various activities allowed/restricted under Stage 1 and Stage 2 Fire Restrictions and Closures. 2007 Fire Restrictions/Quick Closure Reference Guide _______________________________________________________________ Fire Talking Points Montana has over 147,000 square miles and 93 million acres to enjoy. Even if there are some fires within the state, there are plenty of other areas to recreate within Montana’s borders that will be unaffected. Montana experiences forest and prairie wildfires as a consequence of its landscape; the fact that large expanses of our state have remained unsettled and undeveloped. Ironically, this is what draws many people to Montana. We are learning to accept wildfires as an inevitable result of living so close to natural and wild areas. We are adapting and developing steps designed to deal with these acts of nature. Stress what is still OPEN in the area versus what is closed. When speaking with the media regarding facts: o Use non-threatening terminology such as “precautionary evacuation” or “temporary closure”. o When talking about size of the fire or number of acres involved use percentages rather than numbers. o If evacuations are in place, distinguish between “voluntary evacuations” and “mandatory evacuations” o Stress that any closures are “temporary” or “only partial closures” o Accentuate the positive. Fire does have a natural role in ecology. If a fire is burning near a town or resort on a traveler’s itinerary, several sources of information and assistance are available. Travel Montana has travel counselors who can offer information and advice over the telephone Mondays through Fridays from 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Mountain time, at 800- VISIT-MT (800-847-4868) and our website www.visitmt.com provides a wealth of information as well.