Terry Ross surveying the scene on the Madison.

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

  • Richard Gockel
  • 6 hrs ago

Recently, Eileen Ryce, FWP administrator, released a Madison River environmental assessment. It proposes to ban boats from the wade sections preventing access for much if not all of the public.

The EA evaluates the effects of different proposals using a number of factors; public access is not one of them. Due to river conditions, about five miles of the Madison flowing through private land are inaccessible to the public without a boat. Unfortunately, administrator Ryce shows no concern for public access. After pushing a boat ban for nearly two years, commissioner Aldrich asked a simple question: If boats are banned, can the public access these sections? Her answer, I don’t know. She never bothered to determine the effect of a boat ban on public access.

The new proposal is to ban boats Friday through Sunday, June 15 through September 30. Working Montanans lose access to five miles of the Madison all summer.

FWP’s 2018 environmental assessment of a boat ban said, if the number of wade anglers increased, the risk of riparian damage increased. In the 2020 EA’s economic analysis section, FWP estimates a boat ban increases upper wade section angler days by 2,960. Every summer day, there would be 27 more anglers clustered around $3 bridge, increasing crowding and the risk of damage.

Yet in the 2020 EA’s environmental impact section, a boat ban potentially reduces angling pressure. For economic analysis, the number of angler days increases; economic boon. For environmental assessment the angling pressure decreases; good for the fishery. Where is honest consistent evaluation?

The only consistent goal is giving the landed gentry on the Big Bend a section of the Madison free of Montanans. The FWP commission and governor’s office should end this madness. The river should be managed to benefit the public not out-of-state millionaires.