The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks today implemented an immediate closure of all water-based recreation (fishing, wading, floating, tubing, boating, etc.) on the Yellowstone River and its tributaries from Yellowstone National Park’s northern boundary at Gardiner to the Highway 212 bridge in Laurel—stretches totaling more than 183 miles of river.

FWP’s action is in response to an “ongoing and unprecedented” fish kill on the Yellowstone caused by the spread of Proliferative Kidney Disease—a parasitic illness that thrives in warmer waters and that has the potential to cause 20 to 100 percent mortality in a fish population. The parasite does not pose a risk to humans.

In the past week, FWP has documented more than 2,000 dead mountain whitefish on affected stretches. With that, the department estimates the total impact on Yellowstone whitefish to be in the tens of thousands. In other words, a shit ton of whities. Worse, FWP recently received reports of the kill beginning to affect some rainbow and Yellowstone cutthroat.

FWP Director Jeff Hagener says the department had to weigh the totality of the circumstances and risk to the fishery: “We recognize that this decision will have a significant impact on many people. However, we must act to protect this public resource for present and future generations.”

“A threat to the health of Montana’s fish populations is a threat to Montana’s entire outdoor economy and the tens of thousands of jobs it sustains,” adds Gov. Steve Bullock, noting that Montana’s outdoor recreation economy is responsible for more than 64,000 Montana jobs and nearly $6 billion in yearly economic activity. “We must be guided by science. Our state cannot afford this infectious disease to spread to other streams and rivers and it’s my responsibility to do everything we can to stop this threat in its tracks and protect Montana jobs and livelihoods.”

In addition to the closure on the Yellowstone, FWP is asking for the public’s assistance in preventing the spread of this parasite by properly cleaning (CLEAN.DRAIN.DRY) all equipment prior to moving between waterbodies (i.e., boats, waders, trailers).

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Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.

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