Blog

In This Issue:
  • FOAM Annual Meeting!
  • Madison Recreation Plan Update
  • Upper Bitterroot and West Fork Permit Update
  • Guiding for the Future: FOAM’s Advanced Guide Training Program
  • IMG Travel Insurance Partnership
  • Aquatic Invasive Species, 2018 Year in Review
  • Legislative Watch

 

SAVE THE DATE – FOAM Annual Meeting

Thursday & Friday, 21 & 22 March 2019, Chico Hot Springs Resort!

This year’s FOAM Annual Meeting will be Thursday and Friday, 21 and 22 March, at the beautiful Chico Hot Springs Resort in the beautiful Paradise Valley.

Thursday will be the Board of Directors meeting with our usual First Aid Class opportunity Thursday night following the Board meeting.  We may have another optional break-out session at that time with our own Dr. Mike presenting his Fly Fishing Entomology Class as well.

Friday will consist of our Annual Meeting with confirmed speakers from the Institute of Tourism and Recreational Research, Jeremy Sage, and Rachel VandeVoort, Director of the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation.  We will have a cash bar provided by Chico Hot Springs and our awesome raffle. Music by Chad Okrusch!

You will also have an opportunity to win this boat!

We will be raffling a brand new 2019 Clackacraft 16-foot LP!

Boat comes ready-to-fish with trailer and oars.  Only 100 tickets will be sold.  Tickets are $100 each and available from your FOAM region representative.  Tickets will be available to FOAM members only until February 15th, then open to all.  Get your tickets today.  All proceeds go to help FOAM’s Conservation Fund.

A small block of rooms are reserved for us.

 

Government shutdown affects Madison NRC Meetings

Michael A. Bias, Ph.D., Executive Director

With the government shutdown averted, the Madison River Negotiated Rulemaking Committee (NRC) is again set to meet on February 19th and 20th, 2019.  The first two of the scheduled eight meetings were held on January 14th and 15th at the Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) Region 3 Headquarters in Bozeman.  These meetings were hampered somewhat as they were held during the federal government shutdown and the facilitator selected by FWP happened to be a US Geological Survey (USGS) employee that was barred from conducting his duties while on furlough.  The second series of two NRC meetings, originally scheduled for January 24th and 25th, were cancelled due to not having the facilitator because of the continued government shutdown.

Prior to the first series of NRC meetings, we knew the members that comprised the Committee and their affiliations.  As described in the application materials for the NRC, the Fish & Wildlife Commission sought a diverse committee to represent the various interest categories that recreate on the Madison River or are affected by recreation management decisions.  While it may not have been possible for individual committee members to represent each of the varied interests, the Commission charged that the structure of the NRC would focus on all the interests being represented.

However, we think strongly that the Commission fell short on adequately representing the business interests of Ennis and West Yellowstone, the communities most affected by this recreation management plan.  Further, both the Executive Director and a board member of the Madison River Foundation have a membership role on the NRC.  We believe this violated the Commission’s own directive for equal representation of interests on the NRC.

Because the inherent bias brought to the NRC by multiple members affiliated with the Madison River Foundation and the omission of local economic interests, we drafted a letter to the Commission asking to appoint two additional members to the NRC.  We suggested adding a representative from Ennis business community and a member from the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce.

Commissioner Stucker answered our inquiry by letting us know that the authority to add members now resides in the NRC.  In other words, we need to bring this request to the NRC.

To prepare for the NRC meetings, we held a series of four town-hall style meetings to provide the outfitter representatives – Julie Eaton, Scott Vollmer, and myself – with guidance on possible management options they would like to see in this plan.  FOAM hosted the four informational meetings in Gallatin Gateway (2 January), Dillon (3 January), Ennis (4 January), and West Yellowstone (9 January).  A total of 169 people attended the listening meetings composed largely of Madison River SRP Holders, guides, some interested parties.

Attendees were asked to respond to a written survey ranking eight potential management options that they would be able to live with in a new Madison River Recreation Management Plan.  Over 50 surveys were returned.  Of those, 43 were able to be ranked.  Several returned surveys included detailed comments and recommendations not easily incorporated into ranked responses.  Detailed notes of outfitter’s verbal comments were recorded as well.  Several outfitters and guides submitted detailed management recommendations via email as well.  The majority of written responses were from SRP Holders (n = 28, 65%), six respondents did not hold a Madison SRP, and 9 were unknown.

Allocation as a management option was consistently ranked first by 33% of the respondents.  Capping the number of SRP Holders as a management option was as second by 26% of the respondents.  Boats per outfitter consistently ranked third as a management option among respondents (26%).  Conversely, incorporating some type of Rest & Rotation management option was ranked as the second-worst management option to incorporate into a Madison River Recreation Management Plan by 28% of the respondents.  Finally, any type of river closure for access to fishing from a vessel or float tube was ranked as the worst type of management option by over 37% of the respondents.

Seemingly opposite of what we think may be viable management options for a new recreation management plan for the Madison River are the management recommendations proposed by the Madison River Foundation in their latest newsletter.  In that newsletter, they recommend: ban glass containers; walk-in wade only section from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge; personal watercraft ONLY from Ennis town site to Ennis Lake; no commercial use from Grey Cliffs to the Jefferson River from June 15 – September 15; and, cap the number of commercial days.

During the first two NRC meetings, many of the unknown questions we had going into the meetings were answered.  The first of these was what exactly was our charge?  Our charter, presented on day one answered this, we were to “Use a Negotiated Rulemaking Rule process (MCA 2-5-101-110) to revise the River Recreation Plan as presented to the Commission on April 19”.

Our facilitator, who will guide us through the process, is Dr. Mike Mitchell, a USGS Wildlife Biologist that has experience in this process and comes highly recommended by Commissioner Aldrich and others.  The NRC will use Structured Decision Making process to reach consensus to address the “Problems” and “Objectives” first, then decide Alternatives, Consequences, Trade-Offs to develop a new recreation management plan for the Madison River.

The general public is welcome to attend all meetings, but cannot interfere or interact with the NRC participants.  There are scheduled times at the end of each day’s meeting for public comment.  We encourage our members to attend the meetings and participate in the public comment portion of all the meetings.

Following the NRC meetings on the 19th and 20th of February, FOAM will host another update meeting on February 21st at the Gallatin Gateway Community Center from 6:30-8:30 pm.  We hope to see you at the NRC meetings and the Gallatin Gateway meeting.

 

Upper Bitterroot and West Fork Bitterroot River Commercial Use Permit Update

As many of you know, a permit is now required for commercial fishing and floating on the West Fork of the Bitterroot and a portion of the upper Bitterroot (Hannon Memorial FAS to Wally Crawford FAS).  This plan went into effect for the 2018 fishing season.

Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) reviewed the 2018 monitoring data and on January 7th held a meeting that included 11 of the 16 CAC members that developed the rule language proposed in 2017.  Based on the data analysis and feedback provided at the meeting, FWP recommended amending the rule to change “floats” to “launches” and provide a definition for “launch.”  In addition, the department proposed a correction that would provide a timeframe from June 1 to September 15 for the launch restriction per section of river for commercial use permit holders instead of the restriction being year-round.

The Fish & Game Commission at their meeting on February 13th in Helena adopted the FWP recommended changes to the upper Bitterroot and West Fork Bitterroot permit restrictions.  Following this, the public comment period will begin on February 22 and one public hearing will be held in Hamilton on March 19 at the Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor’s Office.

 

Guiding for the Future: An Advanced Guide-Training Program

Mitch Lassa – G4F Coordinator

In the last newsletter, we introduced you to Guiding for the Future (G4F) – a new continuing education program for fishing guides in the state of Montana. Led by FOAM, the program is a voluntary course of study and evaluation to elevate the expertise and professionalism of fishing guides, and to inspire guides and outfitters to become an integral part of insuring the future health of aquatic ecosystems.

Over the last few months, program development has been moving full-speed ahead!  Initial efforts focused on solidifying the program’s mission, goals, and curriculum.  With the foundation in place, development soon focused on building the program’s infrastructure. Instructors were identified and are currently developing materials for the course curriculum.  Mike Bias of FOAM is excited to be among the list of instructors and will lead a module of the course focused on an ecological approach to fly-fishing entomology.  Other instructors include Mike Sanctuary from Confluence Consulting, scheduled to teach river hydrology, Mike Roberts from DNRC, Alec Underwood from the Montana Wildlife Federation, Dave Brooks from Montana TU, Whitney Tilt from the Arthur M. Blank Foundation, and many others.  The course format will require a series of online prerequisite reading materials and evaluations that, upon completion, will allow participants to undergo an intensive hands-on three-day practicum experience.

The practicum will take place at the B Bar Ranch in Emigrant during the week of May 6th-10th.  An evaluation at the end of the practicum will be required for a participant to graduate from the program.  Successful completion of this course will provide participating guides, outfitters, and fly shops with a set of credentials that will distinguish graduates to outfitters, clients, other river users, and agencies.

An important aspect of this program is to increase cooperation between guides, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, private landowners, and other aquatic resource stakeholders.  The G4F program would not be possible without an integral network of partners.  While G4F is governed and managed by FOAM, the program is being coordinated by a contractor from the nonprofit organization, One Montana, and directed and advised by a diverse steering committee.  The steering committee is comprised of representatives from FOAM, fly fishing shops and outfitters, industry groups, foundations, nonprofit organizations, state and federal agencies, and universities.

The G4F program also has the specific task of ensuring our participating guides and outfitters gain exposure to a cooperative river monitoring program.  Fishing guides are out on the water every day, providing “platforms of opportunity” to collect ongoing information on river dynamics, trends, and biological assessment.  In partnership with the Upper Yellowstone Watershed (UYW) group, G4F program participants will be trained in a series of river monitoring techniques employed by the RiverNET program, which is implementing a comprehensive water quality and quantity monitoring program in the Upper Yellowstone Watershed using in-stream sensors and community science.

The first year of the G4F program will serve as a pilot in the Upper Missouri and Yellowstone watersheds that will be expanded in year two (2020) and beyond. Recruitment for this year’s course is already underway.  If you are a guide or outfitter interested in participating, watch for an application to be available soon.  If you would like to learn more about the program, visit our new website at www.guidingforthefuture.org.

 

IMG Travel Insurance Available to Your Clients Through FOAM

We are excited to announce our recent partnering with iTravelInsured, a wholly-owned subsidiary of International Medical Group (IMG), to provide FOAM members and their clients travel insurance designed to protect travelers whose trips are cancelled or interrupted due to unforeseen events.

Wendy Stahl of IMG will be presenting at our Annual Meeting and be available for questions during that day.  As a FOAM member you become eligible to partner with IMG to provide your clients with one of two travel insurance plans available, iTravelInsured Travel SE or iTravelInsured Travel LX.  Plans offer benefits for:

  • Trip Cancellation – Provides reimbursement for unused, non-refundable pre-paid trip expenses if you are prevented from taking your trip due to a covered reason.
  • Trip Interruption – Provides reimbursement for unused, non-refundable pre-paid trip expenses if your trip is interrupted due to a covered reason.  Also provides reimbursement for the additional transportation cost to return home or rejoin your group.
  • Travel Delay – Provides reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred such as accommodations, meals and local transportation if you are delayed 6-12 hours or more during your trip due to a covered reason.
  • Accident & Sickness Medical Coverage – Provides coverage for the necessary medical, surgical and emergency dental care costs in excess of your standard coverage if you become sick or accidentally injured while on your trip.
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation – Benefits include transportation to the nearest suitable medical facility, help to return home and companion airfare to visit you if you are traveling alone and are hospitalized for more than 7 days.
  • Baggage Coverage – Provides coverage for loss, theft or damage to your baggage and personal effects during your covered trip.
  • Baggage Delay – Provides reimbursement for the emergency purchase of necessary personal effects if your baggage is delayed for more than 24 hours during your covered trip.
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment – Common Carrier – Provides coverage if you are injured by a Common Carrier, which occurs while you are on a Trip, and you suffer the loss of life or limb within 365 days of the Common Carrier accident.
  • Trip Cancellation For Any Reason – Provides reimbursement up to 75% of non-refundable trip cost when purchasing the LX Plan.  Available for purchase within 20 days of initial deposit.
  • Trip Interruption For Any Reason – Provides reimbursement up to 75% of non-refundable trip cost when purchasing the LX Plan.  Other conditions apply.

Even the smallest disruption can be an emergency when your clients travel.  They may lose their prescription medication and need a replacement, or maybe they are a victim of a pickpocket and their passport is stolen and they need assistance replacing it.  iTravelInsured’s plans offer a complete range of emergency travel assistance services so your clients can truly enjoy Travel Protection Without Boundaries.  We are excited to have IMG on board and look forward to their presentation at the Annual Meeting.

 

AIS 2018 Year End Review

FWP AIS Staff

2018 was a big year for Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (FWP) and its aquatic invasive species (AIS) program with a record number of watercrafts inspected, record number of water samples analyzed and no mussel larvae or adult mussels detected.

“Our AIS staff and partners have done fantastic work to increase our watercraft inspection and monitoring efforts,” said Tom Woolf, AIS bureau chief for FWP.  “And we are doing a better job informing boaters, anglers, irrigators, and others about what they can do to help stop AIS. “

Some highlights from this boating season include:

  • More than 100,000 watercraft were inspected at 35 watercraft inspection stations.
  • FWP collaborated with partners statewide to operate watercraft inspection stations including: Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Blackfeet Tribe, Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, Garfield Conservation District, Glacier National Park, Missoula County Weed District, and Whitefish Lake Institute.
  • Montana intercepted 16 out-of-state vessels with mussels.
  • AIS monitoring crews surveyed 1,450 sites on 250 unique waterbodies for aquatic invasive plants and animals.
  • A new population of faucet snails was discovered in Lake Frances.  No other new AIS discoveries were found.
  • More than 2,000 plankton samples were collected for mussel early-detection analysis. No mussel veligers or adult mussels were detected in the waters of Montana this year.
  • Environmental DNA (eDNA) testing was conducted on water samples taken from Tiber Reservoir in July. No mussel DNA was found.
  • Divers and mussel-sniffing dogs were also deployed at Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs in search of adult mussels. No mussels were discovered.
  • FWP enforcement has issued more than 50 citations and more than 170 warnings this year related to invasive species violations.
  • FWP and our partners conducted a mussel rapid response exercise on Flathead Lake to practice a coordinated response should mussels ever be detected.

Planning for next season’s AIS program is currently underway and boaters and recreators can expect to see changes next year to make the program even more efficient.

Currently, inspection stations are closed for the winter, but inspections are still offered at all the FWP regional and area offices.  Persons bringing watercraft into Montana must seek an inspection prior to launching. For more information on inspections and the AIS program, visit www.cleandraindrymt.com or call 406-444-2440.

 

Legislative Watch 2019

The 2019 Montana Legislative Session began officially at noon on January 7th.  We are doing our best to stay on top of the busy legislative schedule.  Following are some of the bills we are keeping an eye on as they progress through the legislative process.

HB 10 – Long-Range Information Technology Appropriations, sponsored by Kenneth L Holmlund.  This is a large bill that incorporates technology upgrades for several agencies.  This bill includes the replacement of the Automated Licensing System (ALS) for Fish, Wildlife & Parks.  This bill just recently (7 February) had its first hearing in the Appropriations Committee.

HB 32 – Revise laws related to AIS programs, sponsored by Willis Curdy.  This bill is essentially the bill proposed by the Environmental Quality Council.  This bill would require that for each vessel operated on the waters of this state, a person shall purchase from the department an aquatic invasive species prevention pass.  The annual fee for an aquatic invasive species prevention pass purchased is: (a) $10 for a motorized vessel registered in Montana; (b) $60 for a motorized vessel exempt from registration in Montana (i.e., nonresident); (c) $5 for a nonmotorized vessel owned by a resident; and (d) $10 for a nonmotorized vessel owned by a nonresident.  A hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee was held on 4 February.

HB 301 – Establishing requirements for use of fishing access sites, sponsored by Denley M Loge.  This bill would require a wildlife conservation license along with a valid fishing access site parking pass on the dashboard of the vehicle to park a motor vehicle at a fishing access site for any purpose.  This bill had a scheduled hearing on 4 February; however, it was cancelled and not yet rescheduled.

HB 411 – Revise laws related to AIS expenditures and funding, sponsored by Willis Curdy.  This bill would require would require an aquatic invasive species prevention pass for nonresident motorized vessels to launch on the waters of this state.  The annual fee for an aquatic invasive species prevention pass purchased would be $30.  A hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled for 22 February.

SB 222 – Revise rulemaking authority of the Board of Outfitters, sponsored by Jill Cohenour.  This bill essentially changes some of the reporting requirements of outfitters allowing them to report either ALS numbers or names of clients and alters reporting requirements of outfitters on private lands.  A hearing will be held by the Senate Fish and Game Committee on 21 February.

SR 26 – Confirm Governor’s appointees to board of outfitters, sponsored by Jennifer Fielder.  This Senate Resolution will confirm all the current appointments to the Board of Outfitters made by the Governor.  The confirmation hearing on this resolution is scheduled for 21 February.

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