BOZEMAN – The citizen advisory committee for the Madison River Recreation Management Plan held its first meeting last Wednesday and spent much of the time working on ground rules and getting acquainted with the interest-based process the group would undertake.
The CAC was formed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to guide the agency’s work in developing a Madison River Recreation Management Plan.
The recreation management planning process will develop some kind of over arching recreation plan for the entire Madison River. FWP officially announced that they were undertaking the process last winter and since then many in the commercial outfitting industry and tourism industry have expressed concern that the motivation behind the plan is to limit commercial fishing on the Madison River.
The first CAC meeting went relatively smooth, but one point of debate came in discussing the roles of the representatives from FWP and the Bureau of Land Management who were also part of the committee.
“It does come as somewhat of a surprise that it now is a nine member CAC with two people who represent their agencies,” said CAC member Joe Dilschneider, who is an outfitter in Ennis.
The groups moderator, Ginny Tribe from Missoula, told the group that it’s always complicated to figure out how the agencies involved should be represented. In her past experience with other groups, she’s had agency representatives just advise the group and also sit at the table and be an active participant. The rub can come if the group feels the agency representative is using his position in the group to steer the final product in a preconceived direction.
Both the BLM and FWP had one resprentative at the table. Chris McGrath is an outdoor recreation planner for the BLM in Dillon and Pat Flowers is the region 3 supervisor for FWP.
Flowers told the group that he was sensitive to not seeming to unduly influence the CAC’s work and suggested that he and McGrath provide input and opinions to the CAC discussion but remain essentially non-voting members of the group.
CAC member Robin Cunningham, who is an outfitter in Four Corners and the executive director of the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana expressed some mixed feelings about the addition of Flowers and McGrath to the group, but felt eased by the discussion.
Any recommendation the CAC comes up with, will have to be potentially implimented by both the BLM and FWP, so their input on to what sort of plan is feasible is important, Cunningham said.
CAC member Lee McKenna agreed.
“I have no problem with them being at the table,” McKenna said. “I don’t think this community should operate in a vacuum.”
CAC member Bob Gibson felt the same.
“To me their contribution is very vital and needed,” he said. “I want them to speak their piece.”
During a brief public comment period, Ennis resident and outfitter Todd France was frustrated by the addition of Flowers and McGrath to the group. Initially, FWP officials said they would have a larger group. Then people were surprised that only seven were appointed. Now, it seems to be a nine-member group with the addition of Flowers and McGrath, France said.
FWP officials held a handful of scoping meetings earlier this spring and expressed the need to get representation of all the groups interested in the Madison River. Initially, the agency said the CAC would be comprised of somewhere between 10 and 14 people. They solicited application for members for the committee and 33 people applied. Of those 33, FWP officials selected 13 to be on the committee. However, the committee selection had to go through Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s office and he told agency officials to appoint seven, Flowers said.
As far as how Flowers and McGrath came to be a part of the group, Tribe said the decision was made when trying to figure out how the two agencies would be involved.
“It wasn’t any tricky deal or anything like that,” she said. “It was just trying to figure out where to sit them.”
The four-hour meeting included a broad discussion on consensus and the group agreed to work toward full consensus on issues, with the option to have a minority report if one person just couldn’t agree to what the group decided.
Ultimately, the CAC will develop a recommendation for a river recreation management plan for the Madiosn River that will go as a proposal to the FWP Commission. The commission will have the final decision on the recommendation. If it approves it, then the FWP officials will have to write the plan and put it out for public comment.
What is certain is that the commission in the past has given a lot of weight to proposals reached with full consensus, Flowers said.
The process the group is going through is called an interest-based process, Tribe said. That means she’s going to push them to discuss the interests that are being affected or brought to the table, rather than personal positions.
The general idea is that if you force people to talk about interests impacted by various opinions or positions, it’s easier to address the important issues and find solutions, she said.
Flowers agreed and said he had a lot of experience with the interest-based process Tribe uses. In fact, Tribe is the facilitator for the Madison Valley Elk Working Group, which has been an ongoing group working on elk management issues in the Madison Valley. Flowers has been a part of that group along with others and see consensus reached on controversial topics through an interest-based process.
“My experience is this can be a really powerful process,” he said.
The group members were assigned homework to complete before their next meeting. One item on their homework list was developing a “trap line.”
A trap line, Tribe said, was a group of five to seven people who the members discussed the river recreation management process and ideas with. The goal was to be able to bring back ideas, opinions and interests of other people in the community so the group is better informed and their proposal more thorough, she said.
Another piece of homework was for each member to identify the agenda they bring to the table and write it out on a sheet of paper, Tribe said. This would help to get everything out on the table and help develop integrity and trust between the group members.
“We want to know that about each other, so we can develop what I call professional intimacy,” she said.
The next CAC meeting will be June 13 in Ennis at 3 p.m. The meeting is expected to last until 8:30. For location of the meeting, contact Cheryl Morris at 994-6359.