Members of the Madison Valley community gathered at the Ennis School on Wednesday evening to learn about the process for creating a Madison River Recreation Management Plan and discuss its potential economic impacts.
Robin Cunningham, Executive Director of the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana, was present at the meeting to help explain the process of developing a river recreation management plan, which involves the formation of a citizen advisory committee.
“I can tell you from experience, that is a very detailed, public-comment driven process,” Cunningham said.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks want to develop a recreation management plan to protect the Madison as a resource for future generations. According to their website, FWP says “the plan will guide future management decisions with a goal of providing a variety of quality recreation for a diverse public while protecting the resources in the river and on adjacent uplands.”
With the Madison’s world-renowned trout fishing and proximity to population clusters and tourist destinations, it receives heavy traffic during the summer months. This increase in traffic can impact the recreational experience for different interest groups, and has created issues related to congestion on the river and at access sites, littering and trespassing on private land.
The citizen advisory committee will be made up of representatives from various interest groups that recreate on or around the Madison River who may be affected by recreation management decisions, Cunningham said.
Some of these interest groups may include, but not limited to: anglers, outfitters, landowners, local business owners and non-angling river enthusiasts. The committee, made up of 10 to 12 people, will meet at least eight times over the course of this spring to assist with the planning process. The final river recreation management plan will be based on recommendations from the committee, input from the public, consideration of environmental impacts and input from staff, according to the FWP website.
Cunningham explained that the plan developed by the CAC is submitted to the FWP commissioners before the finalized plan is put into place, and he emphasized the importance of the public’s role in giving their input during the ample opportunities provided throughout the decision making process.
“Your participation is important to make that decision very simple for the commissioners,” he said.
Many people in attendance expressed their concern about what a river recreation management plan means for the local economy. While the CAC will take their time in formulating a plan, input from the community and other interest groups will ultimately dictate their decisions.
As local fishing guide and outfitter Joe Dilschneider pointed out, the CAC may simply decide to take more time in formulating their plan.
“One possible outcome that I think represents best case scenario to a lot of people is that nothing happens,” Dilschneider said.
Tackle Shop owner and Ennis Chamber of Commerce member John Way was involved in formulating a recreation management plan for the Blackfoot River near Missoula, a process that took two years to complete, and he stressed the importance of local businesses involvement with the CAC.
“After living through this once, this can be a good thing for our river and our area, but we need to stay on top of it and we need to make our collective voice as business owners here in Ennis known,” Way said.
FWP has issued a questionnaire seeking input from the public regarding Madison River recreation, and will accept applications for the CAC until March 16.
For more information visit www.fwp.mt.gov or contact Madison River Recreation Manager Cheryl Morris at 994-6359 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.