In This Issue:

  • Madison Recreation Plan
  • Bias takes over at FOAM helm
  • Annual Meeting
  • Aquatic Invasive Species, What’s New
  • Guiding for Conservation, FOAM’s Advanced Guide Education Program
  • Board of Outfitters updates: First Aid Requirements, Client Log Changes


FOAM Responds to Fish & Wildlife Commission’s Rejection of the Madison Plan

At its April 19 meeting, the Fish & Wildlife Commission, after hearing from several outfitters, a representative of the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana (FOAM), and former Executive Director of the Madison River Foundation, voted unanimously to reject the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 3 Madison River Recreation Plan proposal. Testimony centered on the fact that the majority of the proposed restrictions were solely on commercial use – outfitted use accounts for less than 13% of the total annual use on the Madison River – and that the proposed changes would have little effect on overall crowding. The Fish & Wildlife Commission directed FWP to provide them with a new plan that would incorporate non-commercial use and better address the issue of crowding.

FOAM recognizes and agrees that limits on outfitted use in some form are needed on the Madison River. We also understand that the proportion of commercial use on the Madison River increases during specific time periods, such as during the Salmonfly hatch and peak summer season. We look forward to exploring ways in which commercial and non-commercial use can be distributed in a manner that protects both the resource and the quality of the fishing experience for all those using the Madison River.

At least three of the five Commission members expressed concerns about the proposed plan at the introduction of the plan during the meeting. Contrary to some comments on social media and in the press, the Commission’s rejection of the plan did not preempt public input on a management plan for the Madison. The Commission rejected this plan before it was released to the public. Through directing FWP to draft a new plan, the Commission is allowing for maximum public input to ensure the final recreation management plan achieves its goals. As several Commission members noted at the meeting, this management plan will serve as a blueprint for other rivers in Montana, and we need to take the time to get it right.

FOAM looks forward to collaborating with all stakeholders to help create a revised Madison River Recreation Plan that will address overall crowding, explore ways in which commercial and non-commercial use can be distributed more appropriately, conditions for walk-wade sections, as well as fishery protections on the Madison River for years to come.

Since 1978 FOAM’s mission has been to protect and conserve Montana’s fish, wildlife, and aquatic resources; to promote and maintain Montana’s fishing outfitting industry; and to work with individuals, groups, and agencies in all matters of administration and regulation affecting fisheries and our fishing industry. We represent over 700 of Montana’s best outfitters and guides across the state.

Mike Bias to take over the rowing for FOAM

The FOAM Board of Directors is pleased to announce Michael A. Bias, Ph.D. as their new Executive Director. Bias had taken over Executive Director duties from retiring 20-year veteran director, Robin Cunningham officially on January 1st 2018.

Bias will continue FOAM’s excellent regulatory and legislative representation firmly established by Robin Cunningham over the years and provide licensing and business advocacy for guides and outfitters across the state. He also wants to expand FOAM’s role for guide and outfitters as conservation stewards of our great aquatic resources throughout Montana. “I’m excited to be taking the helm of FOAM from Robin Cunningham, I have some very big shoes to fill” said Bias after he accepted the position.

Since 1978 FOAM’s mission has been to protect and preserve Montana’s fish, wildlife, and aquatic resources; to promote and maintain Montana’s fishing outfitting industry; and to work with individuals, groups, and agencies in all matters of administration and regulation affecting fisheries and our fishing industry.

Bias comes to FOAM from the resource conservation field where he is also Principal Ecologist of his own environmental consulting firm. His conservation work centers on stream restoration, enhancement, ecology, and aquatic entomology. Bias earned his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley during 1994 in Wildland Resource Science specializing in population and habitat ecology. He graduated from Humboldt State University with a MS in Wildlife Management (1989) and his BS is from Unity College in Maine in Wildlife Science (1984).

Bias has been a fly fishing guide since 1997. He’s been guiding in Montana since 1999 and a Montana Outfitter since 2009. He currently is the entomology instructor for the Western Rivers Guide School out of Victor, Idaho and was director and instructor at the Hyde Outfitter Guide School for nearly 10 years. Prior to FOAM, Bias was Executive Director of the Big Hole River Foundation for over 10 years. During summers, Mike splits his time between beautiful Twin Bridges, Montana and Island Park, Idaho. He makes his home in Twin Bridges, MT.

Bias can be reached at or 406-925-2276.

Mike Bias and Goose on the Bighorn River, April, 2017, just days after accepting his new offer from FOAM.


Annual Meeting: Fun and Informative

FOAM held its Annual Meeting at the DoubleTree in Missoula on March 10th, 2018. The event marked the 40th year of FOAM.

The morning started out with an inspiring presentation by Jeremy Sage and Norma Nickerson from the Institute for Tourism & Recreation Research at the University of Montana. Their talk detailed their latest report, 2017 Nonresident Visitation, Expenditures & Economic Impact Estimates that highlighted after fuel costs (23%), eating and drinking (20%), and lodging (13%), nonresident visitors to Montana spend $374 million annually on guides and outfitters, or 11% of their total expenditures.

Our nest speaker was Russ Hartzell from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau who gave us a summary of inspection station findings from last year and what we can expect this year.

One of the most well-received talks of the day was from Patrick Hutchins and Adam Sepulveda, geneticists from the US Geological Survey that have been working on the Proliferative Kidney Disease (PKD) issue on the Yellowstone River since it started in fall of 2016. Their work is impressive. They revealed that unusually cool temperature conditions during July followed by quickly warming waters in August may have caused the perfect-storm of environmental conditions that triggered the PKD outbreak. Their important work on PKD in the Yellowstone and throughout the state continues to provide insights to this detrimental disease in Montana.

The next two talks by FWP’s River Recreation Managers from Region 2 and 3, Christine Oschell and Andrew Puls, respectively, outlined the new Special Recreation Permit for the Bitterroot River and summarized the latest findings from the Madison River SRP users. We then surprised Andrew Puls by awarding him with FOAM’s Professionalism Award for 2017.

Robin and Pat Cunningham were presented a plaque and nice Winston Rod and Bauer Reel for their 28 years of outstanding service. Robin gave a brief heartfelt talk on his years at FOAM and what they meant to him. Thank you for your awesome service Robin and Pat.

Robin and Pat Cunningham receiving their Awards of Appreciation from Brant Oswald, FOAM’s Board President.


After a great lunch from the DoubleTree, Brant Oswald, Board President, tried to fix our collective tailing loops by Teaching Us How to Teach Our Clients to Cast.

A summary of what our new Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation is going to do for us was presented by its new Director, Rachel VandeVoort. Rachel summarized that based on ITRR’s research, if we speak as one voice, we can speak very loudly, and we are a powerful force in the economics of Montana.

Aurelia Ewan and Art Hoffart of the Bissell Agency provided us with details for commercial auto insurance. They were followed by a presentation from Paul and Kristin Williamson on Lodge-iIcal, Booking Software for Guides, Outfitters, and Lodges.

Our last presentation before beer and raffle, and one of the most informative of the day, was Josh Tapp’s (FOAM Guide-at-large) presentation on the unexpected medical emergencies and how to deal with them relevant to guiding in Montana.

We want to thank all the attendees that made it to Missoula for our meeting and all the awesome presenters that made this one of the best annual meetings in 40 years, Thank You!

Aquatic Invasive Species

FOAM is committed to helping guides and outfitters as well as Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) protect Montana’s waters by doing their part to Clean, Drain, Dry. Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are those that impact water bodies and wetlands. Whether they come on the trailers or hulls of recreational boats, or from the water of an angler’s bait bucket, several non-native invasive species such as Eurasian watermilfoil and New Zealand mud snails have found their way into Montana’s water bodies. Their presence can cause severe damage to local ecosystems, industry, and tourism.

FWP is part of a strong partnership of public and private stakeholders in Montana committed to an effective strategy of prevention, containment, and control. FOAM is committed to helping in this effort. We have testified twice in front of Montana’s Environmental Quality Council (EQC). The EQC is a state legislative committee created by the 1971 Montana Environmental Policy Act. The Council is composed of 17 members: 6 senators, 6 representatives, 4 public members, and 1 nonvoting member who represents the Governor. The EQC is charged with developing and recommending to the governor and the legislature state policies to foster and promote the improvement of environmental quality to meet the conservation and other requirements and goals of the state.

One big issue for 2019 is appropriate funding for the AIS Program in the state. Right now they are looking to lessen the disproportionate financial burden on non-resident anglers and include perhaps a watercraft-based funding option (rather than on fishing license holders), similar to the AIS boat sticker system in Idaho. We will keep you informed as to the progress of how the legislature is going to fund Montana’s AIS Program into the future.

AIS are easily spread from one water body to the other. Anglers, boaters, construction workers, pond owners, gardeners, seaplane pilots, field workers, waterfowl hunters – virtually anyone who works or plays in or around water can unknowingly transport these pests on their boats and equipment or allow them to spread via improper management practices. It takes only one mistake to potentially infest a new water body. To protect Montana’s waters and native aquatic species, please follow these rules and guidelines:


· Completely remove all mud, water, and vegetation before leaving the access area.

· Inspect your boat, trailer, and all gear. Pay attention to crevices and hidden areas.

· Remove all vegetation (by hand or sprayer).

· Remove all mud (use a pressurized power sprayer, found at most do-it-yourself car washes). The hot water kills organisms and the pressure removes mud and vegetation. No need to use chemicals or soap.

· Dispose of debris in trash or on dry land away from water or ramp.


· Drain all water from watercraft and equipment.

· Drain or remove water from boat, bilge, live well, engine, internal compartments, and bait buckets by removing drain plugs before leaving the access area.


· Aquatic invaders can survive only in water and wet areas.

· Dry your watercraft and fishing equipment thoroughly; this will kill most invasive species. The longer you keep your watercraft, trailer, waders, and other equipment outside in the hot sun between fishing trips, the better.

Guiding for Conservation: FOAM’s New Advanced Guide Training Program

In early 2017, Bozeman outfitter Sean Blaine approached FOAM board member Brant Oswald (Yellowstone Region) with the idea of creating an advanced training program that would provide guides with the knowledge and skills to be true stewards of the resource. Whitney Tilt, of the Arthur Blank Foundation, was working on ways to involve guides in a watershed effort on the Yellowstone, and Sean and Brant combined forces with Whitney last spring. At the same time, Josh Tapp, the FOAM guide-at-large director from the Missoula Region, had also begun to formulate plans for an advanced guide training program. Late in 2017, Josh’s ideas were incorporated into the budding program—tentatively called Guiding for Conservation.

The program’s aim is to increase the guide’s professionalism and their leadership in aquatic resource stewardship, education, and advocacy. Further, the program demonstrates the commitment of guides, outfitters, fly shops, and the fly-fishing industry to the conservation and wise-use of Montana’s waters state-wide. FOAM’s Board of Directors (BoD) has endorsed the idea, and has agreed that FOAM should be the lead organization in this effort.

A steering committee was formed to help direct the program. This committee is composed of outfitters, Mike Bias of FOAM, FWP staff, TU and other conservation groups, and folks from the fly-fishing industry. The current work of the steering committee is directed toward development of the curriculum to transform the idea into a course of instruction.

Here is a current draft of the outline of the program:


Demands for water, recreation, and environmental services are increasing across Montana’s rivers. These demands, in the face of increased periods of drought and other stressors, impact the rivers’ resilience and their fisheries resources, while also translating into the increased potential for conflict among users.

The August 2016 closure of 183 miles of the Upper Yellowstone River and its tributaries to all water- based recreation was a wake-up call to the fishing industry and other river users that: 1) business as usual will not suffice, and 2) there is the need to step-up as advocates for, and stewards of, the river.

With increased human pressures and a challenged resource, the fishing and guiding industry is placed on notice that guiding goes beyond the boat, the truck, and the fishing rod. There is the need to proactively demonstrate a commitment to the resource on which their livelihoods depend. As a primary user of these precious resources, Montana guides and outfitters are one of the primary stewards of this resource.


Guiding for Conservation, or whatever name is adopted for FOAM’s advanced guide training program, is shaping up to be a course of study and testing to elevate the expertise and professionalism of fishing guides, and to ensure program graduates understand that safety, ethics, regulations, and conservation are core responsibilities of a professional guide, long before a single fish is landed.

Akin to Continuing Education (CE) requirements in other professions, participating guides will undergo a curriculum that strengthens competence, increases knowledge and skills, and establishes their commitment to helping steward the rivers on which their livelihoods depend. Participants will be evaluated and tested on their knowledge and performance. Successful completion of this course will provide participating guides, outfitters, and fly shops with a set of credentials that distinguish them to outfitters, clients, other river users, and agencies.

An important aspect of this program is to increase cooperation between guides, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks, and other aquatic resource stakeholders. The program also has the specific task of developing a cooperative monitoring program with agencies and landowners – citizen scientists as they are often referred. At present, remarkably little is known about the “state of the river” for many of Montana’s rivers beyond rudimentary flow and temperature data and sporadic fish population data. Fishing guides are out on the water day-in and day-out, providing “platforms of opportunity” to collect ongoing information on river dynamics, trends, and biological assessment. Mirroring a nation-wide trend, state and federal agencies can work with the guide community to develop citizen science and voluntary monitoring protocols that can greatly enhance the information needed to effectively manage the state’s rivers and enhance fisheries.


• Develop a rigorous, informative, hands-on, and replicable curriculum that engages fly fishing guides, and is viewed as an important and valuable credential for their job and business.

• Provide guides with tools to engage their clients in stewardship of rivers and other natural resources.

• Create a corps of involved fishing guides who can routinely undertake basic water quality, flow measurements, and fisheries monitoring efforts under the direction of state agency personnel.

• Increase communications among fishing guides, fly fishing industry, management agencies, and other river stakeholders to increase cooperation, reduce conflict, and improve fisheries.

• Turn guides and clients into advocates for rivers and aquatic systems.

• Ensure program provides net positive benefits for participating guides, and tie industry into establishing these benefits (e.g., additional pro-deal percentage, better rates on liability insurance, etc.).


• Prerequisite: Applicants with 2 years or more professional guiding experience; holder of valid American Red Cross standard first-aid, or more advanced.

• Pre-Course Homework. Successful testing out of online course material (syllabus TBD).

• Course: three-day practicum with an established curriculum of hands-on experience, demonstrations, and expert presentations. The pilot program initial course will focus on the Upper Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, with the intent (and content) to expand state-wide.

• Post-Course. Graduates will be provided regular updates on program content and ongoing access to curated resources.

• Voluntary, proactive, model, expandable to other states and regions.


Participants will be expected to complete all homework, fully participate in the course practicum, and successfully test-out of the program. As the program develops, we anticipate that all written resources, along with a series of lectures and how-to practicals (produced into videos), will be housed in an online library. A course syllabus is in the process of development.



• Program will operate as a program under FOAM.

• Governed by an evolving steering committee of partners from the fishing industry.

Funding & Tuition

• Funding for the program will be drawn from foundations, industry, and a modest tuition paid by the participants to cover course development, instructor stipends, and other expenses.


• Develop branding for program, including logo materials that graduates can display on boats, at fly shops, etc.

Evaluation and Assessment

• Evaluation will be integrated into all levels of the course, and used to adaptively design future courses, including follow-up assessment of graduates.

This provides you with a recap of the program, as it stands now. The steering committee and the FOAM board welcome your feedback and input on the program.

Board of Outfitters Update

First Aid Requirement

At the March 2018 meeting of the Montana Board of Outfitters (BoO) discussed the possibility of changing the First Aid requirement for guides and outfitters to again require a Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification. The possibility of requiring a hands-on training course for every other First Aid and CPR certification interval was also discussed.

Currently, the BoO requires guides and outfitters to successfully pass a hands-on course for initial First Aid certification. Subsequent First Aid certifications may be obtained online prior to the end of their expiration period—usually 2 or 3 years, depending on the course. About 15 years ago, the BoO removed the CPR certification requirement.

In response to a request from the BoO to provide a proposal to them with a solution, and to adequately represent your thoughts on this issue, FOAM polled its members at our recent Annual meeting, via e-mail surveys, and through personal interviews.

Our survey was composed of four questions:

1) Would you like to see additional requirements for First Aid from the Board of Outfitters?

2) If yes, should we add CPR, but require a hands-on course only for an initial certification.

3) If yes, should we add CPR, and require every other First Aid certification to be a hands-on course?

4) If yes, should we not add CPR, but require every other First Aid certification to be a hands-on course?

Fifty-three outfitters and guides responded to our immediate survey. Nearly 60% of our respondents (n = 31) wanted additional First Aid certification requirements from the BoO. Overwhelmingly, 71% of these guides and outfitters would like to see the requirement as a hands-on course only for an initial certification. Only 32% of the guides and outfitters wanted to see the increased requirement as a hands-on certification every other renewal, and none wanted to see every other First Aid certification as a hands-on course.

Therefore, based on the survey of our membership, we proposed to the BoO that if they increase the First Aid requirements for guides and outfitters, the change should be to include CPR, with only the initial certification required to be a hands-on course.

The BoO will be discussing the issue further at their June 2018 meeting. We will keep you in the loop on what happens.

Client Log Changes

During the March 2018 Montana Board of Outfitters (BoO) meeting, there was discussion of a possible motion requesting legislation to amend 37-47-201 MCA rules establishing outfitter reporting requirements. The legislative request is to change the legal requirement from logging client names to log client ALS numbers. A future rule change would require outfitters to report just client ALS numbers.

The existing law and rule were set up in a time prior to the implementation of the current ALS system by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP). Each license holder has a unique ALS number. As you know, ALS numbers are a person’s birthdate followed by a distinct number. No two people have the same ALS number like no two people have the same Social Security Number. Putting both the client name and ALS number is redundant for many reasons. Many of the 700 fishing outfitters in the state are required to submit SRP reports to FWP for regulated rivers such as the Madison, Big Hole, Beaverhead, Smith, Blackfoot, and now the West Fork of the Bitterroot. In these logs, FWP requires the same information as the BoO does, but not client name.

Paperwork reduction is not just for agency staff—most of these outfitters spend hundreds of hours completing the different databases for two state agencies asking for all the same information except client names. If we change 37-47-201 and 24-171-40 we can streamline all the reporting for all fishing outfitters in the state, while maintaining all the valuable information needed for enforcement, recreation management, and resource protection. At the point when all the agencies can agree on one information set, one database that can be searchable and used by the different agencies. While this will undoubtedly make river outfitters lives easier and reduce their workload by hundreds of hours, it will produce a product that is superior to what is being produced now.

The main criticism of this idea has come from FWP, who has claimed in front of the BoO that they need both the client name and ALS number for enforcement purposes. The enforcement issue arises when there is a mistake in data entry, and they need to cross-check an ALS number with a name. If this is so, why does FWP only require the ALS number on their own SRP reports?

Right now, the BoO has this on their June 2018 meeting agenda. As usual, FOAM will keep you informed of progress on this potential change. However, if this change moves forward, BoO has asked for our help in finding a legislator to carry the bill forward once drafted.