Officials from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are sorting through 34 applications to be on the Madison River Recreation Management Plan Citizen Advisory Committee.
The deadline to submit an application to be on the committee was March 16.
The application deadline came after four community meetings around the Madison River region in an attempt to begin the public conversation about what issues might be addressed in a river recreation management plan, said Charlie Sperry, FWP recreation specialist out of Helena.
FWP is beginning a process of developing a river recreation management plan for the Madison River, a process that officials are expecting to take about a year to complete. Four other rivers in Montana have recreation management plans – the Big Hole, Beaverhead, Blackfoot and Smith Rivers.
The next step in the process will be selecting a citizen advisory committee, which will be the group who does the lion’s share of the work in developing a draft plan, Sperry said.
“We just started the business of going through all the applications,” he said. “We’re looking for some real depth of representation of all the interest categories.”
The plan is to have meetings with the CAC beginning in May, Sperry said.
The CAC will be provided with a significant amount of data and public comment, gathered both through various surveys the agency has conducted along the Madison River and through the public outreach process it has gone through this winter, he said.
The four public meetings the agency recently held in Ennis, West Yellowstone, Bozeman and Whitehall were all well attended and provided officials with a great deal of input, Sperry said.
Additionally, an online survey the agency has on their website about recreation management on the Madison River has had more than 1,000 responders, he said.
“Personally I’m pleased at that much input early on,” Sperry said. “I would hope we would continue see that kind of interest and communication.”
The online survey will only be available through March 23.
One thing that seemed to be underscored through each of the four community meetings was the importance of the Madison River not only to anglers but also to the economies of the local communities around the river, he said.
“We’re going into this knowing how critical that river is both from a recreational perspective, but also from an economic perspective,” Sperry said. “I think that was one of the biggest take home messages I heard consistently.”
Once the CAC applications are reviewed, Sperry and his staff will submit a recommendation to FWP director Joe Maurier who will have the final say on the appointments. Then the first meeting will be scheduled.
All the CAC meetings will be public and located in the Madison River region.
“We want to encourage people to stay involved all throughout this thing,” he said. “We’re going to try and keep this wide open all the way through.”
For more information, go on the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov. Look for Madison River Management Plan. Or call the Bozeman FWP office at 994-4042.