Area FWP biologists honored with awards

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Two fisheries biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Region 1 received a pair of awards at the annual meeting of the Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

Matt Boyer, the science program supervisor for FWP Region 1, was named the Fisheries Professional of the Year.

Amber Steed, FWP Region 1 fisheries biologist, received the 2019 Best Professional Paper Award.

Boyer, Steed and others were honored at the annual meeting in Billings in late January. Other FWP staff to receive AFS honors were Region 2 retiree Ron Pierce (Career Achievement Award), Region 5 retiree Ken Frazer (Career Achievement Award), and Habitat Access Bureau Chief Don Skaar (Career Achievement Award).

The AFS honored Boyer with one of its top honors for his accomplishments of local, state, regional or national significance as well as “above and beyond” efforts that demonstrate long-term commitment to pursuing the conservation and restoration of aquatic resources.

Boyer supervises the fisheries mitigation programs funded by Bonneville Power Administration in Montana’s portion of the Columbia River Basin. This program spans the Flathead and Kootenai subbasins and addresses transboundary fisheries issues in Canada and Idaho, with consequences for the entire Columbia River Basin.

In 2017, Boyer and his FWP team received the Governor’s and FWP Director’s awards for successfully completing a 10-year program to remove genetic threats to westslope cutthroat trout populations in the South Fork Flathead Watershed and to establish self-reproducing genetic reserves throughout the Flathead Subbasin.

“These awards attest to Matt’s calm, professional demeanor, which enables him to gain public acceptance for implementing often controversial projects that lead to landscape-scale benefits for fish, wildlife and their habitat,” Montana fisheries professionals said in their letter nominating Boyer for the AFS honor. “Matt humbly attributes these successes to a team effort, which is true, but his leadership skills are required to achieve team excellence.”

Steed’s award-winning paper, titled “Selecting for a Legacy: Suppressing Hybrid and Rainbow Trout as a Conservation Strategy for Migratory Westslope Cutthroat in the Upper Flathead River Drainage,” was presented and honored at the AFS meeting. The paper provided an overview of more than a decade of work describing rainbow trout spawning ecology, patterns of hybridization with cutthroat, and management actions aimed at securing the Flathead watershed as a stronghold for Montana’s state fish.

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