Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beaverhead & Big Hole River Recreation Rules Comments by Ray Gross

Ray Gross is a conservation hunter & angler, an FWP Citizen Advisory Council member for our Region 3 and a George Grant Chapter of Trout Unlimited (southwest Montana) board member from Dillon, Montana with firsthand experience concerning the Beaverhead & Big Hole River Recreation Rules. Below are his bullet points for comments and concerns. Please take a few moments to send in public scoping comments SUPPORTING the Beaverhead and Big Hole River Recreation Rules - with additional concerns. We need to protect our public lands and waters from privatization and exploitation.

Montana FWP - "The Beaverhead and Big Hole River Recreation Rules were first adopted in 1999 to address public concerns about crowding. The rules include restrictions on float outfitting and non-resident float fishing on certain days of the week for specified sections of the rivers. The rules also limit the number of watercraft that may be launched per day at official access sites."

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will host two public scoping meetings in October to take comments and questions about the Beaverhead and Big Hole River Recreation Rules. The meetings will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the dates and at the locations which follow:
  • Dillon: Wednesday, Oct. 21 at the University of Montana-Western Block Hall #311
  • Butte: Thursday, Oct. 22 at the Butte Ranger District, 1820 Meadowlark Drive
The Scoping process will develop a tentative proposal, which will go to the FWP Commissioners probably in December, with FWP's recommendations. Pending commissioner tentative approval, it would then be opened up for the formal comment period with a vote by the FWP Commission expected in Jan. or Feb.

Scoping Comments on the Rules may be emailed to cherylmorris@mt.gov or sent to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Attn: Cheryl Morris, 1400 S. 19th Ave., Bozeman, MT 59718

I support the Beaverhead and Big Hole River rules. The rules are working, but I have concerns.

  • Some outfitters are outright selling client days. They are selling client days for on the Beaverhead and on the Big Hole. The rules are that client days can only be transferred if an outfitter sold his business. There was to be no vested interest created with the river rules.
  • A few outfitters have even sold their client days, applied for and received additional days as a one boat outfitter.
  • An outfitter on the Beaverhead that gets more clients than he has allowed number of boats on the river, or client days, calls other outfitters and uses their client days. They call this subleasing or acting as a booking agent.
  • The Tash to Selway stretch of the Beaverhead River was closed to float outfitting to provide a stretch of river for the public to not have the conflict and competition with commercial outfitting. Some outfitters are leasing or paying rod fees to walk their clients to this stretch of the river. This is a statement by those outfitters that they have no consideration for the public. The Big Hole has one stretch of river closed to float outfitting every day of the week. There are not enough stretches on the Beaverhead to do this.
  • Float fishing is permitted from the dam on the Beaverhead to Buffalo Bridge. This stretch is mostly wade fishing and has public access on both sides of the river. Floating through this section causes conflicts and is an intrusion to wading anglers. Floaters could put in at Buffalo Bridge and walk upstream to wade fish if they want. Additional parking would need to be provided at Buffalo Bridge. This is Bureau of Reclamation land.
  • Outfitter client days are only counted during "the shoulder seasons", June and July on the Big Hole and July and August on the Beaverhead. The outfitters were originally allocated days based on the total number of days they had during their highest year. When the rules were passed, in 1999, the internet was not used as extensively. At present, with the internet and the smart phone, clients are recruited by email, web pages, social media, text messages and on and on. Now there are exponentially greater numbers of clients recruited. The outfitting season starts in early May and lasts through October, not considering the cast and blast trips. Commercial, outfitted use, on all Montana’s rivers will continue to grow. How much capacity do our rivers have? How much longer will exponential grow of commercial fishing outfitting, on all Montana Rivers, go unchecked and unregulated? All this needs to be reevaluated. 

Ray Gross

Dillon, Montana