River recreation management advisory committee to meet in West Yellowstone

The Madison River Recreation Management Citizen Advisory Committee will meet for a full day this Saturday in West Yellowstone.

The meeting will be the group’s seventh as they work their way towards a plan to manage recreation on one of the busiest rivers in Montana.

The last set of meetings was held in September in Bozeman over the course of two days. The hope going into those meetings was to come away with the outline of a plan, but that didn’t happen.

However, the advisory committee did make progress on identifying desirable conditions, triggers for management actions and what management actions might be used on four stretches of river:  Raynold’s Pass to Lyons Bridge, Lyons Bridge to Ennis and Warm Springs to Black’s Ford and Greycliff to Headwaters State Park.

Desirable conditions on the Raynold’s Pass stretch included quality fishing and keeping the walk/wade regulations. On the Lyons Bridge to Ennis stretch, desirable conditions included maintaining the world-class fishery, limiting boat launch waits to no more than 15 minutes and having no trash in or around the river.

On the Warms Springs to Black’s Ford segment of river, desirable conditions included managing for a high volume of short duration, recreational floaters and eliminating driving while intoxicated and excessive alcohol consumption, garbage and public safety issues.

Suggested triggers that would initiate management actions on all three stretches include aspects specific to those stretches of river. On the Raynold’s Pass stretch, the trigger discussed is looking at the number of commercial launches per year and if it exceeds 400 for two years in a row it would trigger a management action, which may include education promoting the walk/wade section and river etiquette. Further action could involve changing regulations to eliminate the use of boats on that stretch.

On the Lyons Bridge to Ennis stretch suggested triggers for management action are tied into angler use. When the annual angler survey numbers show more than 135,000 angler days per year for two years then management actions may be triggered. Also, visitor surveys that indicate a more than 20 percent dissatisfaction rate on two consecutive survey cycles may also trigger management actions.

Management actions on this stretch could include education, opening the stretch from Lyons Bridge to McAtee Bridge to fishing during the spring and restricting users.

One suggestion the group had was implementing a $1 Madison River Fishing Stamp. The money from the stamp would be used for river management and programs, possibly conservation work. Also the stamp would allow the state to better capture user data, by conducting a short survey when the stamp is purchased.

On the Warm Springs to Black’s Ford stretch, there is already too much garbage and too many public safety issues.

Management actions could include more education about parking, increased enforcement and parking fees.

On the lower stretch from Greycliff to Headwaters State Park, the group felt it was important to maintain the status quo because the stretch is used primarily for its solitude and wildlife viewing opportunities. They discussed increased float camping opportunities at currently undeveloped public lands.

They also felt more information on the use on this stretch of river needed to be gathered.

At the meeting Saturday, the CAC is slated to discuss other stretches of river with the goal of fleshing out a draft plan. This draft plan would be the topic of a Dec. 6 public meeting in Bozeman.

For more information about the CAC, the meeting notes and progress the group has made is online at fwp.mt.gov/recreation/management/madison/.

The meeting in West Yellowstone will be Saturday, Nov. 3 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Public comment will be from noon to 12:30.

For more information, contact Cheryl Morris, Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 3 River Recreation Manager at 994-6359.

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