Makoshika State Park without a manager

By 
Hunter Herbaugh
Thursday, June 17, 2021
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Makoshika State Park manager Chris Dantic was released from his position this week. Ranger-Review file photo

Makoshika State Park Manager Chris Dantic has been released from his position, leaving the state’s largest park, as well as a few others, without a manager. It is unclear why Dantic was removed from his position as the Department of Fish, Wildife and Parks doesn’t comment on personnel matters, according to FWP Spokesman Greg Lemon.

Local leaders have also been restraining from any statements regarding the situation, as there is still not much information publicly available and they are waiting to learn more. According to Montana State Parks Board Member Kathy McLane, a public information session with FWP Director Hank Worsech will be coming soon, though she is not sure exactly when.

“I talked to (Worsech) yesterday and he assured me he is flying in. It’ll be after the 4th of July weekend, I believe, but he’ll be flying in and wants to have a community meeting,” she said.

However, even without more information, Dantic’s termination has come as a shock to many of the people who have been involved with the park. The news came very suddenly and just before Buzzard Day, the park’s largest event, leaving many surprised and frustrated. Upon learning of the situation, Dawson County Economic Development Council Executive Director Jason Stuart immediately sent a mass email to almost all of Dawson County’s political and economic development leadership, encouraging them to contact FWP and Gov. Greg Gianforte to show their support for Dantic.

“While we may not be able to do much to actually save Chris’ job or get him reinstated, I would encourage every one of you to start contacting both (State Parks Administrator Beth Shumate) and Gov. Gianforte’s offices and giving them an earful – by phone, by email, by written letter. They need to hear from us in the local community that we do not at all appreciate them summarily terminating a park manager who has done such an incredible job building Makoshika up and who has been such a valued asset to our community,” Stuart wrote.

Some local officials, such as McLane have sent correspondence to Helena showing their support.

In the meantime, Makoshika is left without a manager during what is expected to be a busy tourism season, even more so than last year.

Dantic also managed three other parks - Medicine Rocks, Brush Lake and Pirogue Island State Park - meaning they are also without management at this time.

For now, Lemon said he does not know what will come out of the situation for management, but he noted the department is “confident” that the experience for visitors will not be impacted and they will still be able to enjoy the park to its fullest.

“I don’t know the specific details, other than we’ve had some conversations that the management of the parks is all taken care of in a matter of time. So we feel confident that guests will enjoy their stay and we’ll provide them with all the services that they’ve come to expect at Makoshika,” Lemon said.

McLane will be providing more information on a public meeting when it becomes available. Dantic declined to comment.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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