Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is considering a variety of alternatives in order to manage recreation use of the Madison River. The river is a popular destination for anglers and is a favorite among those looking for a relaxing summer float.

There are three main objectives listed in the proposal.

  1. Ensure long-term health and sustainability of the fisheries
  2. Diversifying angling opportunity while reducing conflicts
  3. Sustaining the ecological and economic benefits of the river to Montanans and our guests

This Environment Assessment (EA) addresses recreation management on the Madison River from the outlet of Quake Lake downstream to its confluence with the Jefferson River.

The management alternatives being considered are:

  • 1.0: Non-regulatory alternative. This proposal would remove the existing walk/wade sections on the upper Madison River and the existing requirements for the Special Recreation Permit for commercial outfitters. It would not institute any new regulations on recreational use of the river other than those specific to fishing regulations. After analysis, it is considered that this alternative would not meet the goals as established and could be detrimental to the long term health and sustainability of the fishery and would not diversify angling opportunity while reducing conflict.
  • 2.0: Status quo alternative (no action alternative). The existing walk/wade sections on the upper Madison would be retained, as would the SRP permit system for commercial outfitters. It would not institute any new regulations for recreational use other than those specific to fishing regulations. Similar to alternative 1.0, analysis indicates that this alternative could cause impacts to the long-term health and sustainability of the fishery, and would therefore not be a good fit to achieve the required goals for recreation management on the Madison River.
  • 3.0: Social conflict management alternative. This proposal would utilize different approaches to improve river user satisfaction and reduce crowding and conflict. Walk/wade sections would be changed to prohibit fishing from boats, rest/rotation sections would be instituted to provide space between commercial and non-commercial users, and access sites would be staffed or redesigned to reduce congestion. Access site acquisition and development below Greycliff FAS would be prohibited to ensure a more primitive experience is maintained. This alternative primarily addresses the goal of diversifying opportunity while minimizing conflicts.
  • 4.0: User growth limitations alternative. This proposal would cap the number of commercial outfitter client trips using one of four allocation methods to assign trips to individual outfitters. It would also consider approaches to limit certain use by non-commercial recreationists. There are a variety of options within this alternative, including varying levels of caps and methods for allocation. It additionally contemplates options for addressing noncommercial activity on the river. Based on the options within this alternative it may have negative impacts or only partially achieve the goal for recreation management on the river.
  • 5.0: Madison River recreation goal alternative. This alternative includes a combination of tools that are considered to best meet the objective stated in the Madison River goal. This proposal would change existing walk/wade sections to prohibit fishing from boats, two rest/rotation sections would be instituted to separate commercial and non-commercial users, 3 access sites would be staffed and redesigned to reduce congestion, access site development below Greycliff FAS would be restricted to ensure a more primitive experience, commercial outfitter numbers would be capped at 2019 levels, and a no-cost “stamp” would be required of all users to assess impacts of non-commercial recreation. Based on the analysis, the tools within this alternative would ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery, provide for a diversity of angling opportunity and would sustain the ecologic and economic benefits of the river.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission will virtual meeting on ZOOM on Friday, June 12 to discuss the recreational management alternatives for the Madison River. Click here for additional information about the meeting.

Details for the public comment process will be available on the Montana FWP website. Public meetings will be held for the communities of Ennis, West Yellowstone, Butte and Bozeman.

At the conclusion of the public comment period FWP will weigh and balance public input to develop a Management Plan and River Recreation Rule for presentation to the Fish and Wildlife Commission. If the Commission approves the draft rule notice, there will be an additional public comment period for the specific rule. Ideally, the river recreation rule will be implemented in 2021.

Click here to view the full agenda for the virtual meeting on June 12.