Madison Scoping Meeting, Bozeman

Another good turnout including a wider variety of users met with FWP folks in Bozeman last night. One new topic discussed was the lower Madison’s famous ‘tuber hatch’ – the summertime inner tube/air mattress/raft non-angling, sun-loving college crowd enjoying lazy floats from the BLM Warm Springs put-in to FWP’s Black’s Ford take-out.

Both landowners and land management agencies have tried to keep up with this popular pastime: The BLM reworked the Warm Springs access site, paving, striping for parking, creating alternate launch ramps, and improving the latrines. At Black’s Ford, FWP has added dumpsters at peak times to provide ample waste management. There is only so much both agencies can do to absorb the increasing ‘splash-and-giggle’ recreational use level and attendant drinking, overflow parking, and occasional conflict with other uses on the water and at the access points.

Clearly, this is quite a different situation from the angling use popular on the upper Madison, but it shares at least one obvious common requirement: Improved specific data on who is doing what, where, and when.

One college student asked FWP representatives if they had conducted any surveys on the lower Madison keyed to non-commercial, non-angling recreation. Aside from one ‘on-site’ survey conducted in 2009 that included the stretch from Warm Springs to Black’s Ford, the department told her they had no firm numbers on how many folk, primarily residents, are using either access point and when they are floating.

Gaps in specific data on nonresident angling in the upper Madison mirror the lack of data on this non-angling user group on the lower Madison. When asked about this need for adequate information to help guide the upcoming management discussion process, FWP Region 3 Chief, Pat Flowers, noted he was satisfied with the current data available and had no plans for further surveys or data-gathering instruments.

To his credit, he noted that if the Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) requested further information on use and user levels in specific areas at specific times, the department would do its best to comply.

Another point common to this river management process was brought up by a resident angler. Noting the frequent questions and concerns from outfitters and business owners who may be impacted by social controls, he wondered aloud about the resident angler in all this, asking if the CAC selection would be ‘slanted against the resident walk-wading angler.’

Charlie Sperry briefly discussed the planning process rules, pointing out the variety of representatives who would be selected for the CAC. Pat Flowers went on to explain his intent to create an ‘interest-based consensus-driven’ discussion of concerns and possible solutions.

Interest-based means most particular interests will be represented; consensus-driven means all represented interests must be considered in all decisions. No ganging-up, no obvious voting blocs, no majority rule. These two principles are central to the success of this planning method.

FOAM has long promoted these core concepts, and welcomed Flower’s reiteration of his commitment to their implementation in the Madison management discussion. Flower’s experience with many other resource, wildlife, and social issues that were successfully resolved through interest-based consensus-driven proposal and resolution discussions underscores the importance of his promoting these key modes in the Madison process.

Now, if we had sufficient data to augment meaningful discussion in a cooperative atmosphere, we will be well on the way to another success.

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