- FOAM Annual Meeting!
- Madison Recreation Plan Update
- Upper Bitterroot and West Fork Permit Update
- Guiding for the Future: FOAM’s Advanced Guide Training Program
- Legislative Watch
FOAM Annual Meeting
This year’s FOAM Annual Meeting was held Thursday and Friday, 21 and 22 March, at the beautiful Chico Hot Springs Resort in the beautiful Paradise Valley.
Thursday was our Board of Directors meeting with our usual First Aid Class opportunity Thursday night following the Board meeting.
Friday consisted of our Annual Meeting with Rachel VandeVoort, Director of the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation, followed by Jeremy Sage from the Institute of Tourism and Recreational Research starting the day-long meeting. We then had informative presentations from IMG Insurance, Art Hoffart from Bissell Insurance, Connor Flanagan from Simms gave an Industry Perspective on Outfitting, the Avitus Group unveiled our new FOAM website (what, new FOAM website? yep, check it out at www.foam-mt.org), Brant Oswald and Sean Blaine presented the Guiding 4 the Future program, Mike Bias gave FOAM’s first ever 2018 Annual Report, Josh Tapp gave us ideas to ponder Beyond First Aid, and we finished the day with a discussion on the Madison River Negotiated Rulemaking Committee update from Julie Eaton and Scott Vollmer.
Matt Printz and his family from Bozeman won the boat!
Madison NRC Meetings Update
Wednesday, 26 March, the Madison River Negotiated Rulemaking Committee (NRC) had finished its eighth, and originally the last scheduled meeting, of the entire series of meetings without any proposed rule or recommendations for the Fish & Wildlife Commission (Commission). The goal was to be done with a negotiated rule by the April 25th Commission meeting so they would be able to get a Madison River Recreation rule out for public review and approval by the 2020 fishing year. Through our last six meetings with the facilitator we formulated our problem statement, formalized our objectives, and offered – but did not discuss among the group – various alternatives that might meet our identified fundamental objectives. Not until our last meeting, on Wednesday, March 26th, did we even begin discussing – negotiating, and at times arguing – the application of our alternatives towards some type of proposed rule. By the end of that meeting, after 5pm, the negotiator realized that perhaps negotiated rulemaking by the structured decision-making process was not going to work for the Madison and that perhaps conflict resolution and fact-finding would be a more appropriate process to come to some consensus on a proposed rule.
At the meeting on the 26th, several alternatives were proposed – proposed, but only briefly discussed among the NRC. Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) proposed implementing a Madison River use stamp for all anglers planning on using the Madison – capping non-resident use at some percentage of the estimated 207,000 user-days estimated in 2017. Tim Aldrich, Commissioner, proposed managing commercial use through an average launches per outfitter per day, but exactly how to calculate average number of launches per day and what effect the average launches per day per outfitter would have on the commercial use distribution was not assessed. We supported Mel Glasser’s idea of a tiered permit system for outfitters with 1-25 days, 26-50 days, 51-100 days, being in permitted in tiers, and over 101 days outfitters would receive historic use as an allocated system of commercial use across the year. We also proposed an evaluation period of one, three, and five years for any of the proposed rules allowing for an adaptive management system, able to adjust use into the future if warranted. At the last NRC meeting, we were discussing a possible two-day per week closure to fishing access by boats on the Quake Lake to Pine Butte section, but status quo on the channels, and lower river sections. At the end of the last meeting, Lauren Wittorp of the Madison River Foundation, did not want any monetization of permits to occur, would not budge on closure to boats on the channels and lower river closure to commercial use. We did not support any kind of ‘citizens day’ as proposed by Charlotte Cleveland. With the structured decision-making process, we seemed to run out of time to get to the brass tacks of recommending any kind of plan. By the end of our NRC meeting on 26 March, we discussed having another NRC meeting and agreed to coordinate and schedule that meeting among the committee members via email.
Following the March NRC meetings, Lauren Wittorp (Madison River Foundation (MRF), now former executive director), Jim Slattery (NRC member and MRF board member), Mel Glaser, Scott Vollmer, Julie Eaton, myself, Jason Fleury (FOAM board member), and Kelly Galloup met at Kelly Galloup’s Slide Inn on Monday, April 1st. We met to discuss ideas among MRF members and outfitters. We – six members of the NRC – explored Madison River recreation management ideas that could possibly be brought before the NRC. These management ideas included the lower river, Warm Springs to Jefferson River, remaining status quo, the channels, Ennis to Ennis Lake, remaining status quo, the upper river, from Quake Lake outlet to Pine Butte possibly being closed to access to fishing by boat on Saturday and Sunday from mid-June to mid-August.
Since our April 1st meeting, through discussions with Mel Glaser, FWP is somewhat adamant on not going with any sort of allocation system as it monetizes permits. They like their idea of managing overall use on the Madison through a Madison River use stamp – similar to getting tags for hunting districts. Tim Aldrich is continuing some idea of average launches per day per outfitter. However, he may be backing away from the average launches per day per outfitter, but liked the idea of managing commercial use through some system of launches per day or boats per reach. And, Charlotte Cleveland seems to be holding tight to implementing some type of “citizen’s day” restricting non-residents use on the Madison.
The challenges continue as Lauren Wittorp resigned her position as executive director of the MRF and had also resigned from the NRC. Currently, no one on the NRC knows what is going to happen, will there be a push to have another member selected to take Lauren’s place, will the MRF push to have someone else take Lauren’s place on the NRC? We just do not know at this time. Many of these questions will need to be evaluated by FWP’s legal department and probably assessed by the Commission as well. However, in looking at the Negotiated Rulemaking Act, we could easily continue without any type of replacement for Lauren Wittorp and continue as originally directed using nine members of the original ten. All of these questions will be addressed at the next Madison River NRC meeting scheduled for May 2nd, Thursday, in Bozeman.
Upper Bitterroot and West Fork Bitterroot River Commercial Use Permit Update
Based on information collected during the 2018 season and feedback from river users, Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) recommended amending the Bitterroot River Commercial Use Permit Restrictions rule to change the word “floats” to “launches” and provide a definition of “launch.” In addition, FWP had proposed the correction of a drafting error that is consistent with the intent of the citizen advisory committee’s 2017 recommendations. This correction would provide a timeframe from June 1 through September 15 for the launch restriction per section of river for commercial use permit holders, instead of the restriction being year-round. The commission also proposed to amend the Review of River Recreation Rules for Bitterroot River to reflect the correct starting year that the five-year review is to occur, 2022 instead of 2024. This would allow for four seasons of data collection.
Public comment on the proposed amendments ended March 22. There was also a public hearing on March 19th in Hamilton. FWP received 140 comments (116 written comments via email, mail and in person, and 24 people testified at the public hearing), with 71% in favor of the proposed amendments, 24% opposed to the amendments, and 8% not specifying support or opposition to the proposal.
FWP recommended the Fish & Wildlife Commission adopt the rule amendments at their April 25th meeting in Helena. These amendments would allow commercial users to spread out and would ease congestion at access sites. The amendments would not affect the permit system and cap, non-commercial days or wade-only sections that have been provided in the 2017 decision. The Commission approved the FWP recommended changes to the West Fork and Upper Bitterroot River plan at their April 25th meeting in Helena.
Guiding for the Future: An Advanced Guide-Training Program
Over the last several newsletters, 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.
Well, it’s happening. The practicum will take place at the B Bar Ranch in Emigrant, May 6th-8th. 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.
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 moved towards 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.
Dan Smith and Zach Scott new Guide-at-Large Directors
At this year’s Annual Meeting attendees voted to approve another Guide-at-Large position and voted in two new Guide-at-Large directors. Dan Smith will represent guides from the east side of the divide on the board of directors, while Zach Scott will represent guides from the west side of the divide.
Daniel Smith holds a BS in Marine Engineering Operations from Maine Maritime Academy and an MBA in Finance from Southern New Hampshire University. He spent fourteen years shipping all over the world. The last ten years as Chief Engineer, on both merchant and military vessels. Fed up with a career that interrupted the fishing season and major hatches, Daniel retired from the Merchant Marines to become a fishing guide based out of Bozeman. When not guiding Daniel can be found fishing all over Montana or tropical destinations for permit and tarpon.
Zach Scott moved to Missoula from Tulsa, Oklahoma to attend the University of Montana. While in school Zach worked in a Missoula Fly Shop and started guiding. Zach is now in his seventh year of guiding. Zach has been an active member and supporter of FOAM through his guiding career. When not rowing, Zach enjoys upland and waterfowl hunting with is dog Leo.
Legislative Watch 2019
The 2019 Montana Legislative Session has closed. As it wound down there were some last minute Bills we kept an eye on as the legislative process ended.
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 passed the House and Senate and is currently awaiting signature from the Governor.
HB 301 – Establishing requirements for use of fishing access sites, sponsored by Denley M Loge. This bill would have required 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 several iterations through amendments in Committee including a $2 fee for users at 21 “High-use” sites. While still in Committee, most of the amendments were stripped and the bill resumed somewhat of its original form. However, following revisions and votes in Committee on 11 April 2019, the bill was tabled and died.
HB 411 – Revise laws related to AIS expenditures and funding, sponsored by Willis Curdy. This bill provides funding of Montana’s AIS program. The bill would require would require a $10 aquatic invasive species prevention pass for nonresident non-motorized vessels to launch on the waters of this state. The annual fee for an aquatic invasive species prevention pass for nonresident motorized vessels would be $30. The bill also acquires a portion of AIS funding through the Lodging Facility Use Tax. This bill reestablishes fees on hydroelectric facilities for AIS programs in Montana. The bill would acquire funding through a portion of the registration fees for resident vessels. Lastly, the bill acquires funding for the AIS program through an AIS prevention pass on fishing licenses, $2 for residents and $7.50 for non-residents.
This bill passed the Senate on 16 April by a voting margin of 44 to 6 and passed in the House on 23 April 2019 by a 62 to 35 vote. The bill is currently proceeding through its final stages to be signed into law by the Governor.
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 was held by the Senate Fish and Game Committee on 21 February. We testified in support. The bill was passed the Legislature and is in the final preparations process for signature by the Governor.
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. This resolution passed the Legislature and became law on 2 April 2019.
SR 28 – Confirm Governor’s appointees as members of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, Tim Aldrich, Missoula, Montana, and Shane Colton, Billings, Montana. The confirmation hearing on this resolution was 11 April 2019. We testified in support of Mr. Shane Colton. On Wednesday, April 24th, the Senate Fish and Game Committee confirmed the Governor’s appointees as members of the Commission and passed the Senate on 26 April.
SR 48 – Confirm Governor’s appointees as members of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, Logan Brower and Pat Byorth. The confirmation hearing on this resolution was also on 11 April 2019. We testified in support of Mr. Pat Byorth. On Wednesday, April 24th, the Senate Fish and Game Committee confirmed the Governor’s appointees as members of the Commission and passed the Senate on 26 April.