The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in collaboration with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) announced the outcomes of the structured-decision making (SDM) process to provide recommendations for a management alternative that addresses key management issues at Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).

The Service and FWP will share with and explain to the public the recommendations for management at Benton Lake NWR at a public open house October 23, from 6-8 p.m. in Great Falls, Mont. The open house will be held at the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Office located at 4600 Giant Springs Road.

SDM participants worked together to develop and analyze a number of management alternatives for the refuge. The agreed upon recommendations address fundamental objectives including: selenium build up in the wetland basin, invasive species, waterfowl hunting, wildlife observation and photography, environmental education and interpretation, botulism, upland and wetland productivity and health, and achieving the Benton Lake NWR Complex goals and objectives.  

Characteristics of the consensus management alternative include: flexible water management including frequency and amount of pumping and location of water within the basin; water conserving modifications to existing infrastructure; improving water quality within the watershed; striving to provide some waterfowl hunting and fall and spring migration habitat a minimum of 11 of 15 years and basin-wide drawdowns no more than 4 out of 15 years; intensive management of habitat to improve wetland health and productivity; the reduction of selenium throughout the wetland basin; and the inclusion of an adaptive resource management approach. In consultation with the Service and FWP, the wet and dry cycles may be modified to ensure progress towards achieving habitat objectives.

The SDM report is currently being completed and prior to the meeting will be posted on the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region Planning website at

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