Just ahead of the “High Noon” FWP Commission Meeting this Tuesday in Helena, a flurry of hate mail directed toward fishing guides popped up in local newspapers around the state. Are we bad people?? I didn’t think so, but after reading Letters to the Editor from Richard Rohrbaugh, Keith Shein and someone called “Christine Webster”, I am beginning to feel like this guy:

Or maybe this guy:

First, Mr. Rohrbaugh’s letter to the Montana Standard last Thursday:

Outfitters’ entitlement.

“The welfare outfitters who think they own the Madison River want all of Ennis to believe our town will shrivel up and die if we put some restrictions on outfitter use of the river. It’s a bunch of BS. Ennis has a healthy economy, and in fact could really benefit with river use rules. The outfitter use has become so intense in the summer than many Montanans avoid the Madison River, and with it our town. They spend money here, too-in our restaurants in our stores, and at the gas station. Montanans come to our bars and they stay in our hotels. I’ve talked to them and I always welcome everyone to Ennis, residents and non-residents alike. What doesn’t work is giving outfitters complete veto power over allocation of a public resource like the Madison River. This crowd is teaming up with the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, another group with a sense of entitlement over public wildlife. They’re dividing our town when it’s not necessary. Speak up for the Madison River and tell he Fish and Wildlife Commission to enact some common sense regulations to restore some sanity to the river we all love.” Richard Rohrbaugh, Cameron

“Welfare outfitters”? Fishing guides run businesses, work second jobs, support families, put kids through school, pay taxes…

But on to Mr. Shein’s letter to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle written today:

Outfitters must realize Madison belongs to us all.

“It’s time for all of us who love and cherish the Madison river to reclaim what’s ours. A group of outfitters in Ennis has decided that the river is theirs. They don’t give a rip about the health of the fishery or the experience that Montanans have when they come to enjoy the Madison. All they care about is money, and they’re acting like bullies toward not only the whole town of Ennis, but all of Montana.

Now this group has enlisted the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association that wants private hunting for paid clients to the exclusion of all Montanans. MOGA members a couple years ago viciously attacked a wildlife biologist in Livingston for doing her job when she proposed scaling back bull elk harvest there. That’s the same attitude these same welfare outfitters on the Madison have toward the river and the fish in it. If it hurts their bottom line, regulations be dammed, whether the resource suffers or not. The Madison belongs to all of us. Let the state Fish and Wildlife Madison and conservation run the show.” Keith Shein, Cameron

There’s that “welfare” word again.

But this is not Mr. Shein’s first go-round:


Mr. Rohrbaugh and Mr. Shein are certainly passionate about the Madison…but wait. They would like you to believe they are just common Montana native folks from “Cameron” standing up for the little guy…not so fast. Mr. Rohrbaugh lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon and Mr. Shein lives in Novato, California. They both have summer homes in the Sundance Subdivision on the Madison below the Three Dollar Bridge. Not only that, they are next door neighbors! They paved Paradise and put in a subdivision!

Calling fishing guides “bullies” is laughable when this is the very same Sundance Subdivision group who is trying to bully their way with the FWP Commission using The Madison River Foundation to “get rid” of all watercraft on the stretch of the river that flows by their front door so they can have it all to themselves. Privatization of public water is the worst form of bullying…the worst form of arrogance…and very typical of out-of-state non-residents who move here from elsewhere and try to run Montana their way. And speaking of the Madison River Foundation:


Richard Rohrbaugh, Chair Cameron, MT

James Slattery, Vice-chair West Yellowstone, MT

Charles Ross Anderson, Treasurer Salt Lake City, UT

Travis Hedrick, Secretary Bozeman, MT

Jay Frederick, Jeffers, MT

Matthew Purcell, Ennis, MT

Michael Reck, Cameron, MT

Keith Shein, Cameron, MT

Both the letter writers are on the Board of the Madison River Foundation! Amazing coincidence!

So is there a common hatred toward fishing guides and outfitters amongst some board members of the Madison River Foundation and the residents of the Sundance Bench Subdivision? Apparently.

Another letter was written to the Chronicle November 3rd signed by “Christine Webster, Ennis”. Trouble is, nobody in town has ever heard of Christine Webster! Who is she? A ghost? A secret agent?

Ms. Webster’s letter:

All Montanans deserve a say in protecting Madison

I’m an ordinary Montanan that works nine to five, so attending a Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting during the day is unrealistic, and the same goes for most Montanans. Guides, however, have nothing but free time mid-November, so I’m sure they’ll flock to the commission meeting on Nov. 12 in great numbers.

I hope this doesn’t mislead the commissioners when voting on regulations for the Madison River. Normal Montanans, like myself, are very supportive of regulating use on the river, and saving the river from exploitation by guides and outfitters. The river is already abused by guides, so please don’t let their selfish behaviors dictate the future of the river.

The river should be enjoyed by all fishermen, not just commercial groups. I urge those of you that are available to show up and speak up for the future of the river. Commissioners, save the Madison River for the benefit of all Montanans by implementing regulations, and know that many of us unable to attend the meeting want what’s best for the health of the resource.

Christine Webster, Ennis

I love this one…”normal Montanans, like myself”Ms. Webster is so “normal” nobody in town knows her! According to her, fishing guides spend their whole summer “abusing the river” and all of November smoking dope and watching cartoons.

Pointing the finger at fishing guides and making them the bad guy using an orchestrated hate-mail letter writing campaign is silly, high school stuff. The FWP will make some rules and we will ALL abide. But it won’t stop the crowding. It’s not a fishing guide problem. It’s a people problem. Too many humans over-running the natural world. Four million folks a year through Yellowstone, thousands and thousands over-flowing the Lower Madison all summer long. The Lower Madison has gotten so crazy that Montana FWP stated in their 67 page River Recreation Plan: “The high-volume of NON-ANGLING use presents management challenges unique to this section of the river, including littering, parking along the highway, high alcohol consumption and driving under the influence, undesirable behavior and other public safety concerns.” It’s a people problem.

Cones and barrels and congestion are running amok with out-of-control growth in Bozeman including a drift boat in every driveway … and they are all headed for the Madison. It’s a people problem

The over flow of wealth and chaos at Big Sky ski resort, subdivisions along the river, sprawling mansions. More people…more, more, more.

Blame the fishing guides, then look in the mirror.

The Madison will stay crowded until all the fish die.

And then it won’t matter.

It’s a people problem.