In This Issue:

  • Guiding for the Future: FOAM’s Advanced Guide Training Program
  • Aquatic Invasive Species, the Latest Heading into 2019
  • Madison Recreation Plan Update


Guiding for the Future: FOAM’s Advanced Guide Training Program

In early 2017, Bozeman-area 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. At that same time, Whitney Tilt, of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, was working on ways to involve guides in a watershed effort on the Yellowstone. Sean and Brant combined forces with Whitney last spring to formulate the idea of an advanced guide training program. Late in 2017, ideas solidified and were incorporated into the budding program— called Guiding for the Future.

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 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.

Guiding for the Future, 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 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.

Most recently, Mike Bias, Sean Blaine, and Brant Oswald have been meeting with Sarah Tilt, former executive Director at Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation and now the Executive Director for One Montana ( about the Guiding for the Future Program. To date, we recently hired Mitch Lassa as the Program’s Coordinator. Mitch will facilitate development of the details of the curriculum, organize logistics for the course itself, and help identify instructors. Mitch comes to us from Wisconsin and has been working as a Big Sky Watershed Corps & Conservation intern, splitting time between One Montana and MSU Extension. The project has been moving quickly in the last few weeks, preparing a preliminary budget, some additional work on the mission statement, and developing the curriculum.

The FOAM Board of Directors thinks strongly that FOAM would need to be the lead organization to maintain credibility and to get buy-in from prospective students. To this point, the idea is to have the coordinator do a lot of the detail work of coordinating with the steering committee, organize development of the curriculum, but have Mike Bias, Executive Director for FOAM, act as the supervisor to maintain the connection with the outfitting and guiding community.

With Mitch on board as the coordinator, FOAM and One Montana have secured some seed money to begin the pilot program. Whitney Tilt has earmarked $14,500 from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, and Sarah Tilt reports the board at Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation approved $2,500 for the program at their board meeting last week. FOAM, through its resurrected Conservation Fund, secured $10,000 from the Turner Foundation. We will keep you all informed of our progress on this innovative program, look for our first class to begin around April 2019.

AIS Funding Update

During September, we attended the AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) session of the EQC (Environmental Quality Council) that was discussing funding mechanisms for Montana’s AIS Program. The main discussion was to decide whether or not to move forward with the current funding proposal as follows:

* a more reasonable resident/nonresident fishing license fee, resident=$2 per year, nonresident=$7.50 per year, estimated annual revenue is $1,707,420;

* at the time, the EQC added a $2 fee also to the waterfowl license, estimated annual revenue is $52,226;

* a motorized watercraft fee, resident is $10 per year, nonresident is $60, estimated annual revenue is $1,090,780;

* a non-motorized watercraft fee, resident is $5 per year, nonresident is $10, estimated annual revenue is $375,235;

* and, using the General Fund ($3,274,339) to generate funds to administer and deliver Montana’s AIS Program with a total estimated annual revenue of $6,500,000.

Towards the latter part of the meeting the EQC decided to drop the waterfowl license funding and simply add that amount to the General Fund request.

This proposal is likely to be drafted as the bill for funding Montana’s AIS Program from 2019 to 2021.

The EQC has been working on a new funding structure for Montana’s AIS Program since January. The EQC is a bipartisan group of legislators and public members that meet during the months between sessions to study specific issues and consider whether to recommend new legislation.

Currently, Montana’s AIS Program is funded by hydroelectric fees that provide $3.7 million in annual funding and the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass purchased by anglers that generates about $3 million per year. In past EQC meetings we fully supported the Council’s work and understanding to generate AIS Program funding through a more equitably-represented fishing license fee between resident and non-residents. And, we support the current AIS funding proposal as it heads for the Legislature in 2019.

Madison River Recreation Plan Update

At the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s (Commission) meeting last June, the Commission voted to use the Negotiated Rule Making process to help Fish, Wildlife & Parks formulate a Madison River Recreation Plan. This process would form a new committee to build upon the work previously developed by the 2012 Madison River Recreation Citizens Advisory Committee, the 2018 Environmental Assessment, and revising the proposed rule from April 19th meeting to provide direction for a new plan. They were encouraged to use Negotiated Rule Making to resolve controversial issues, although probably the most time-consuming and complex of the 4 alternatives available to them.

The Commission intends to establish an independent negotiated rulemaking committee (NRC) to develop administrative rule language pertaining to recreational use on the Madison River. The NRC will develop administrative rule language which could affect commercial and recreational use of the Madison River. The Commission sought applications from interested parties to serve on the NRC to represent the various interest categories that recreate on the Madison River or are affected by recreation management decisions. The Commission will appoint approximately eight to ten people to represent the interests. People with the ability to represent more than one interest category are desirable. Applications for membership on the committee and comments concerning the proposed negotiated rulemaking process were due by October 22, 2018. The Commission will select members to the NRC at its December 10th meeting in Helena.

Some FOAM Board members and staff submitted applications to be on the NRC. Selected members of the NRC are planned to begin meetings in January 2019 with the projection of getting recommendations to the Commission by their April 2019 meeting. We will keep you posted on the progress of the NRC and the formulation of the new Madison River Recreation Plan.