87-1-272. Future fisheries improvement program -- funding priority -- reports required. (1) In order to enhance future fisheries through natural reproduction, the department shall establish and implement a statewide voluntary program that promotes fishery habitats and spawning areas for the rivers, streams, and lakes of Montana's fisheries.
(2) When projects are suggested by the future fisheries review panel, the department shall, through a public hearing process and with the approval of the commission, prioritize projects that have been recommended by the review panel to be funded. Emphasis must be given to projects that enhance the historic habitat of native fish species. The department shall fund and implement the program regarding the long-term enhancement of streams and streambanks, instream flows, water leasing, lease or purchase of stored water, and other voluntary programs that deal with wild fish and aquatic habitats. A project conducted under the future fisheries improvement program may not restrict or interfere with the exercise of any water rights or property rights of the owners of streambeds and property adjacent to streambeds, streambanks, and lakes. The fact that a program project has been completed on private property does not create any right of public access to the private property unless that right is granted voluntarily by the property owner.
(3) The department shall work in cooperation with private landowners, conservation districts, irrigation districts, local officials, anglers, and other citizens to implement the future fisheries improvement program. Any department employee who is employed under this section to facilitate contact with landowners must have experience in commercial or irrigated agriculture. The department shall encourage the use of volunteer labor and grants, matching grants, and private donations to accomplish program purposes. The department may use contracted services:
(a) for negotiations with landowners, local officials, citizens, and others;
(b) for coordination with other agencies that may be involved in projects conducted under this section; and
(c) to perform and supervise project work.
(4) Funds expended under this section may be used only for projects for the protection of the fisheries resource that have been identified by the review panel established in 87-1-273 and approved by the commission and may not be used for the acquisition of any interest in land.
(5) (a) The department shall report to the commission on the progress of the future fisheries improvement program every 12 months and post a copy of the report on a state digital access system to ensure public access to the report.
(b) The department shall also present a detailed report to the legislature in accordance with 5-11-210 on the progress of the future fisheries improvement program. The legislative report must include the department's program activities and expenses since the last report and the project schedules and anticipated expenses for the ensuing 10 years' implementation of the future fisheries improvement program.
(c) In order to implement 87-1-273 and this section, the department may expend revenue from the future fisheries improvement program for up to two additional full-time employees.