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Local fisheries biologists earn statewide awards

February 17, 2019 GMT

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.

The American Fisheries Society 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.

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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 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.

Steed earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin and a Master of Science degree in fish and wildlife Management from Montana State University. She has worked as a fisheries biologist for FWP in Northwest Montana since 2007, collaboratively conserving native fishes while researching their interactions with introduced species throughout the Flathead River system. She also strives to foster the public’s connection with natural resources through communication and education efforts.

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Boyer earned a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife and fisheries science from Penn State University and a Master of Science degree in organismal biology, ecology and evolution from the University of Montana. After undergrad, he led trail and wilderness patrol crews on Utah’s Wasatch-Cache National Forest. He began working for FWP’s Region 1 fisheries division in 2002.

The American Fisheries Society, founded in 1870, is the oldest and largest professional society representing fisheries scientists. Its mission is to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals. The Montana chapter of AFS formed in 1967 and its membership is currently composed of approximately 250 fisheries professionals affiliated with state and federal agencies, universities, and private industry across the state.

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