Access for Everyone

The Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission formed a Negotiated Rulemaking Committee (NRC) to develop a proposed plan aimed at addressing perceived overcrowding on the Madison River. The ten-member committee is tasked with forming a plan over the course of eight scheduled meetings to present to the Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission by April 2019.

On February 1, 2019, Lauren Wittorp, executive director of the Madison River Foundation and a member of the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, issued a newsletter that included the following recommendations for the proposed plan:

● Ban glass containers
● Walk-in/wade-only section from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge
● Personal watercraft ONLY from Ennis town site to Ennis Lake
● No commercial use from Grey Cliffs to the Jefferson River from June 15 - September 15
● Cap the number of commercial days

We are not opposed to the proposal for the ban on glass containers, though we fail to see how the ban on glass containers will help reduce perceived crowding. A cap on commercial days, however, could take many forms and we would need a more specific proposal to consider lending our support. Guides play a major role in promoting safety and conservation on the river and their value cannot be understated. We cannot support the other three proposed recommendations, which would only bottleneck anglers into a smaller area—exacerbating any perceived crowding, limit public access, and negatively impact the Madison River ecosystem. These consequences are in direct opposition to the Madison River Foundation’s mission: Preserve. Protect. Enhance.

The use of personal watercraft only from Ennis town site to Ennis Lake is a shortsighted proposal that offers no solutions and only creates more problems. Recreational crowding would increase along the stretch and the lack of commercial services would fail to provide access to our elderly and disabled populations. Moreover, the heavy lake winds, which guides are skilled in managing, would create dangerous scenarios for personal watercraft.

Eliminating boat access for ALL anglers in the stretch from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge infringes on our right to public access and challenges the Montana Stream Access Law. We see no justifiable reason to eliminate boats from a section of river that is already not easily accessible by wade fishermen. A closure of this sort seems to serve only the personal interests of private property holders along that section. The resulting increase in wade fishing along the stretch would also lead to increased disturbance and erosion, as Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks described in their 2018 Draft Recreation Management Plan-Environmental Assessment:

“Prohibiting the use of a vessel or float tube to gain access to fishing in wade-only reaches would likely not have a significant impact on natural resource values unless it resulted in an increase in wade angling. If wade angling increased overall or in specific locations, increased disturbance and erosion could occur (page 44).”

The elimination of commercial use from Grey Cliffs to the Jefferson River from June 15 - September 15 will concentrate river use into a smaller area. You cannot alleviate perceived crowding across an entire river by condensing anglers into smaller areas. Allowing people to spread out is the only solution to address perceived crowding. Any perceived crowding from Grey Cliffs to the Jefferson River is purely subjective—it does not exist in practice. Closing this section of the Madison River would also prompt further challenges to our Montana Stream Access Law.

The Madison River Foundation’s recommendations would reduce public access and lead to further disturbance and erosion along our cherished resource. We cannot support the goals of the foundation’s current executive director, which directly contradict the organization’s own mission statement as well as our Montana values. Our beloved Montana Stream Access Law has been challenged repeatedly over the years by individuals seeking to privatize their property on our public rivers. The foundation’s proposals would undoubtedly result in additional legal challenges by Montana groups and citizens. If the Madison River Foundation chooses to support our Montana Stream Access Law and refocus its efforts toward its own mission of preserving, protecting, and enhancing the Madison River, we would be happy to show our support.

If you feel you or your business can agree with this letter, please show your support by signing on.
Update #19 days ago
Thank you for supporting continued public access and the Madison River. There is one favor to ask, please provide similar comment directly to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Madison Negotiated Rulemaking Committee. Some committee members still believe the Commission-rejected plan from last April is a good one, and they need to hear that a loss of access will not be accepted!

Please provide your comments here:

http://fwp.mt.gov/recreation/management/madison/nrcComments.html
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