Though deliberations on what a recreation management plan might look like have still yet to begin in earnest, the Madison River Recreation Management Plan citizen advisory committee members agree on one thing – the Madison River is a valuable natural resource.
As part of their work during their second meeting last Wednesday in Ennis, the group members talked about the agendas they are bringing to the table and what interests those agendas represent.
And while the members might not agree now on whether or not it’s a good idea to limit commercial use on the river, they all agreed that protecting the resource is an essential task.
“Nobody said, ‘I don’t give a rip about the river,’” said facilitator Ginny Tribe.
Tribe pointed to that commonality as an important move forward in the process of developing guidelines for a recreation management plan.
The Madison River Recreation Management Plan CAC began meeting earlier this month. Their task is to develop a recommendation for a Madison River Recreation Management Plan, which will be submitted to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission.
The decision to develop the plan was made by FWP last fall, but has been discussed for the last several years.
On Wednesday, Tribe outlined the objectives for the eight-member CAC.
Over the course of approximately eight meetings, the group will: Review and assess river recreation information and existing conditions on the Madison River; identify and describe desirable or acceptable recreation conditions for the Madison River; identify and describe conditions that would warrant implementation of various management actions; develop a list of those management actions (less restrictive to more restrictive).
During a short public comment period, Madison Valley resident John Bingham asked if the group had identified a group of “perceived problems” with the Madison River.
“I don’t think we came into this saying there are a tremendous amount of acute conflicts,” said Pat Flowers, FWP region 3 supervisor.
Part of the process the group will go through will be to identify if there are any conflicts or problems and what those might be, Flowers said.
In an effort to gain better information about the existing recreation conditions on the river, the group listened to data collected by PPL concerning traffic at recreation sites along the Madison-Missouri River corridor.
Kim Bergstrom is an outdoor recreation consultant with PPL, which owns dams on the Missouri and Madison Rivers and is mandated to monitor recreation activities in the corridor under their dam operating licenses with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
What the data continues to show is that people enjoy their time on the Madison River, Bergstrom said.
“We repeatedly find that visitors are really satisfied with what we have to offer out there,” she said.
While generally the perception is the river isn’t too crowded, that has changed a bit over the years in the upper Madison, Bergrstrom said. But the survey results didn’t indicate it is a problem.
Bergstrom’s presentation brought to light one of the more difficult tasks for the CAC – deciphering what are acceptable conditions on the Madison River when it comes to recreation.
For instance, if someone says the Madison River is too crowded, what would be an acceptable level of traffic? It’s a very elusive concept and will be difficult to pin down, Tribe told the group.
That led to one of her homework assignments for the committee members. The members are supposed to talk to their traplines (five to eight people who they’ll seek out for input on issues discussed by the committee) and see what they think are acceptable conditions on the river.
The next meeting will focus on trying to identify and describe desirable recreation conditions on the Madison River.
For more information and the date and time of the next CAC meeting, contact the FWP office in Bozeman at 994-4042.