On Friday, the Fish and Wildlife Commission will decide whether or not FWP’s Draft Madison River Recreation Management Environmental Assessment, or EA, should be released for public comment.
“So what the EA does is take into account all the various input that we’ve heard over the years,” said Eileen Ryce, Fisheries Division Administrator with FWP.
“The department has put together a variety of alternatives for consideration that could go into a recreation management plan.”
The Montana Outfitters and Guides Association (MOGA) says COVID-19 has taken a toll on businesses that rely on the river, and implementing restrictions would only make things worse.
“What business in Ennis, Virginia City, the affected people — what business has the time right now to dedicate to a process that’s gonna do nothing but reduce their economic viability?” said Mac Minard, Executive Director with MOGA.
The EA spells out a number of alternative management options designed to ease crowd sizes and regulate outfitters.
For example, FWP’s preferred alternative management option calls for a rest-and-rotation schedule from June to the end of September.
“What rest rotation is is, it sets aside a couple of sections on the river, and there’s one section on Saturday and one section on Sunday. On those days just within those sections in that seasonal period, those sections are for non-commercial people to use,” said Ryce.
“We’re not a fan of rest-and-rotation, but those alternatives can be implemented if they’re put in areas on the river that can fit them,” said Mike Bias, Executive Director of the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana (FOAM).
Bias says FOAM believes a rest-and-rotation cycle would be more suitable for the months of July and August.
FWP recommends the commission release the EA for public comment.