FWP seeks comment on draft EA for annual pheasant release

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on a draft environmental assessment on a proposal for the annual release of pen-raised ring-necked pheasants on suitable state lands.

FWP has administered a pheasant release program since 1987, which has involved releasing pen-raised pheasants on private lands for population augmentation and increased hunting opportunity. In March of 2021, following legislative action and funding, a new pheasant release program was established to support recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts in Montana. This new component of the program aims to engage youth in the sport of hunting, promote hunter success and provide additional hunting opportunities for hunters of all ages.

Under this legislation, FWP will continue to develop and implement this program and release up to 50,000 pheasants annually on any suitable and eligible state-owned lands. Some releases will occur a few days before the youth pheasant season opener to maximize opportunity for youth hunters, and some releases could occur later in the months of October and November to increase hunting opportunities for hunters of all ages.

Pheasants released through the program are required to be stock from National Poultry Improvement Plan certified hatcheries that have tested negative for certain poultry diseases. Plans are underway for the State Prison in Deer Lodge to begin raising pheasants for this FWP program. FWP will provide funds for start-up costs for the prison to begin raising pheasants. The prison will provide pheasants only to FWP. If pheasants are not available from the prison in 2022, FWP may purchase birds from private producers.

In September 2021, the first season of this effort, FWP released 2,094 pheasants on seven WMAs in FWP Regions 3, 4, 5, and 7, prior to the youth pheasant season opener. The initial release resulted in good satisfaction for youth hunters who were hunting lands where birds were released.

To view the EA and provide comment, go online. Comments can also be emailed to doneill@mt.gov or sent to Fish, Wildlife & Parks, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701, Attn: Deb O’Neill. Public comment will be accepted until Feb. 28.

Submitted by Montana  Fish, Wildlife & Parks


DPHHS Issues Guidance for Montana Health Care Facilities and Providers Related to Federal Vaccine Mandate

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) has issued the following guidance for Montana health care facilities and providers with respect to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) COVID-19 vaccine mandate that was published on November 5, 2021.

The federal mandate requires that Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities, subject to certain conditions and requirements, establish a policy ensuring that all covered staff (except for those who have a pending or granted exemption or for whom vaccination should be delayed, pursuant to Centers for Disease Control guidance) have been vaccinated.

The requirements include covered staff have received a first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, or a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine within 30 days of January 14, 2022 and have received the necessary shots to be fully vaccinated within 60 days.

The mandate also provides for exemptions for staff as a reasonable accommodation for a disability, for sincerely held religious belief, observance or practice, and for medical reasons, and requires facilities to have a process for permitting such exemptions.

DPHHS encourages covered health care facilities and providers to review and adopt its religious exemption form, which can be found at ttps://dphhs.mt.gov/assets/publichealth/CDEpi/DiseasesAtoZ/2019-nCoV/CMSVaccineMandateReligiousExemptionApplicationForm.pdf

The guidance identifies the health care provider and supplier types, as well as staff, covered by the mandate. It also includes information about facility types and staff not covered by the mandate.


650,000 At-Home COVID-19 Tests arrive for Montanans across the state

Submitted by Department of Public Human Health Services


Governor Greg Gianforte and the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) are making available 650,000 at-home COVID-19 rapid antigen tests for Montanans. The tests are being provided at no cost to support early COVID-19 detection in an effort to reduce transmission of the virus.

DPHHS shipped the at-home tests this week to county and Tribal public health departments for distribution beginning Sunday, January 30 unless otherwise noted.

Montanans can go to hometest.mt.gov for locations and days the tests will be made available. The allocations were distributed on a per capita basis to local jurisdictions.

The public is encouraged to reach out to local officials with any questions related to distribution information. Local contact information is included on the website.

The CareStart tests are self-administered, and results are available in 10 minutes. The governor first announced plans to increase access to the tests on January 13.

The website includes guidance for Montanans about how to report a positive test. County and Tribal public health departments are also required to provide an informational one-pager with each test kit. Montanans can report a positive test to DPHHS by scanning the QR code located on the one-pager, or online here.

Montanans that test positive should isolate for five full days and inform their health care provider and any close contacts. If an individual meets the criteria to discontinue isolation after day five, they should wear a mask for an additional five days when around others and avoid indoor gatherings and travel. For more information about the current guidelines for isolation, quarantine and who may be a close contact, please visit.

Safe and effective vaccines are widely available and the best way to prevent severe illness or death from COVID-19. Visit covidvaccine.mt.gov to find an available vaccination site.