There is a perception that the guide and outfitting community has been against any recreation management restrictions being put in place on the Madison River by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP). Although some within the guide and outfitter community are opposed to restrictions, the large majority are actually in favor of a recreation plan.

The Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana (FOAM) is comprised of 866 guides and outfitters, and represents about 75% of those outfitters permitted to operate on the Madison. We have worked closely with our members, FWP, and the commission to draft a plan limiting overall growth of commercial use in an effort to be a part of a recreation plan that ensures a great experience for all.

FWP’s plan brought to the commission in April of 2018 allowed for potential growth in commercial use upwards of 2,000%, closed entire sections of the Madison to commercial use, banned the use of vessels to gain access for fishing, and additional closures of the Madison through “rest and rotation.” Commercial use on the upper Madison in 2017 was roughly 19,000 angler days, out of over 200,000 non-commercial angler days. We failed to recognize how the April 2018 plan would have managed crowding, but felt it would have adversely impacted operations of commercial users, while threatening the economies of the local Madison communities.

Two of the petitions submitted to the commission for review on Nov. 12 are identical to each other and to the April 2018 plan previously rejected by the commission. Our petition imposes limitations on commercial users, while allowing use across all river sections. We will continue to work with FWP and the commission to find a solution and have been proactive in providing a plan that will deal with limitations on our group.

Jason Fleury