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Fish and Wildlife Commission to meet Nov. 12, will hear Madison River petitions

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By Jessianne Castle EBS ENVIRONMENTAL & OUTDOORS EDITOR

BOZEMAN – The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission will hold their regular November meeting on Nov. 12 at the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks headquarters in Helena, where they will hear presentations regarding rulemaking petitions for the Madison River.

After the latest in a series of contentious talks on how to manage burgeoning recreation numbers on the Madison River, which has thus far failed to yield compromise among outfitters, local anglers, landowners and non-residents, a number of stakeholder groups have submitted petitions to the Fish and Wildlife Commission requesting some form of regulation on the river.

These groups will present their requests during the commission meeting, after which commissioners will take public comment. The meeting will be streamed live to all of the FWP regional offices, which includes the Bozeman Regional Office on 19th Avenue. Audio from the meeting will also be streamed online.

The Madison River Foundation has submitted a petition similar to a joint request by the George Grant chapter of Trout Unlimited, Skyline Sportsmen Association, Anaconda Sportsmen Association and Public Lands Water Access Association. Both of these petitions urge the Fish and Wildlife Commission to initiate rules that FWP originally proposed in April 2018, at which time the commission rejected after hearing outcry from fishing outfitters.

These proposed rules on the Madison River would cap the number of commercial-use permits, establish year-round reaches of the river set aside for non-commercial use and prohibit the use of glass containers from Quake Lake to the Jefferson confluence, among other rules.

The Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana has also submitted a petition to the commission and will make a presentation on Nov. 12 emphasizing the group’s request that the commission establish a Madison River Commercial Use Working Group and develop a commercial use plan that, among other things, sets a maximum number of commercial trips at the 2019 level and establishes a trip distribution pool for new-entry outfitters.

After the commission hears these three petitions, the commissioners must either deny the petitions or initiate rulemaking on them.

Eileen Ryce, the administrator for FWP’s fisheries division, said commissioners will be able to deny all three petitions, or approve one, two or all three. Should they approve any of the petitions, this would initiate a rulemaking process in which the proposals are filed in the Montana Register then released for public review. Public comments would be taken through a formal commentary period as well as during public open hearings, the input of which would then be collated and used to create a final rulemaking proposal that the commission would ultimately adopt or reject.

The most recent petitions come after a panel composed of interested stakeholders disbanded in May, unable to reach a consensus decision on recommended regulations for the Madison. Since then, representatives of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association and the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana have encouraged FWP to develop an education program that might mitigate poor etiquette at Fishing Access Sites.

Visit fwp.mt.gov/doingBusiness/insideFwp/commission for more information about the Nov. 12 meeting or to listen to the meeting live.

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