About 60 folks turned out for the first scoping meeting hosted by FWP to collect comments and answer questions about the Madison River Recreation Management Planning Process, MRRMPP.
The Ennis Middle School meeting room was lousy for acoustics – tough to hear the questions and answers – but we all struggled through. Many outfitters questioned the genesis and justification for the MRRMPP. Several local business women, notably Chris Gentry, owner of the Ennis grocery store, worried about possible controls on outfitters and guides that would cut into tourism business.
“These guys buy my food, and they bring in clients who buy my food,” said Chris. She reminded FWP that Ennis ‘lives on the summer business’ provided by recreational tourism.
Charlie Sperry, FWP River Recreation Coordinator, Travis Horton, FWP Fisheries Manager for Region 3, and Sam Sheppard, Warden Captain for Reg. 3, all fielded questions and provided, for the most part, on-point, balanced answers and explanations grounded in statistics and administrative history.
A couple points established early in the meeting: 1) Social pressure is not having any direct effect on the fishery. 2) While data about commercial use is plentiful, site-specific, time-graduated data on other angling use is sparse.
Yes, FWP has annual and summertime (May – September) statistical counts of angler days on three stretches of the Madison – roughly, Y’stone National Park to Lyons Bridge, Lyons to Ennis Dam, and Ennis Dam to the Missouri – broken into resident and nonresident numbers, but the department has no breakdown of which sub-stretches folks fished, or how many anglers used them, or when they fished.
Without this data, the committee discussing Madison concerns will be hard pressed to clearly and accurately determine if there are ‘hot spots’ of use that may warrant intervention. FWP would do well to focus on landowner and land management agency concerns, such as trespass, trash, human waste, crowded parking lots, etc. for now, while working up statistically significant survey or census instruments to backfill the missing use and user data to spur useful future discussions.
On to Bozeman tonight, then West Yellowstone on Feb. 28 and Whitehall on March 1. More to come.