COVID-19 is requiring new solutions for fish and wildlife managers. One such solution is being implemented to help Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks continue providing recreation opportunities across the state.
SIMMS Fishing Products has donated 200 pairs of repurposed waders to be used as personal protective equipment, or PPE, for FWP staff that care for Montana’s state parks and fishing access sites. FWP began distributing the waders to staff in each region this week. The waders will also help U.S. Forest Service personnel care for some federal outdoor recreation facilities.
The donation comes at a time when recreational use of these sites has been unseasonably high, and the availability of PPE and cleaning supplies has been limited, due to the pandemic. This has created challenges for FWP as it works to follow federal and state safety guidelines for maintenance staff while keeping sites open to the public.
SIMMS approached FWP with the idea to use their repair center’s collection of used waders that are no longer fit for fishing but could be repurposed as PPE overalls by removing the stocking feet.
“These types of innovative approaches by businesses like SIMMS are allowing us to be able to provide much needed respite at our parks and fishing access sites for all Montanans, which is so necessary during these difficult times,” said FWP’s State Parks Division Administrator Beth Shumate. “We’re incredibly grateful to SIMMS for the additional PPE to protect our staff, helping us continue providing outdoor opportunities for the public.”
Diane Bristol, Senior Director of Employee and Community Engagement at SIMMS, said the donation was largely inspired through SIMMS’ Fish It Well initiative, which focuses on doing good through outdoor citizenship.
“We so appreciate being able to access our rivers. Being able to give back to the folks who are out there keeping them open is awesome,” Bristol said. “We couldn’t think of a better way to prolong the life of our waders than to repurpose them as PPE.”
FWP staff will use the waders in their new role as they care for facilities at state parks and fishing access sites. FWP continues to encourage the public to practice social distancing and to follow directives from Gov. Steve Bullock.