Kearns and Sons RS Aesthetics

Advisory committee revises recommendation on river use

By Michael Howell

The sixteen-member Bitterroot River Recreational Advisory committee met for the last time on Monday, March 6 to fine tune the recommended alternative they have fashioned for controlling recreational use on the West Fork and upper Bitteroot River. The preferred alternative being recommended by the group at this point does not involve issuing any Special Recreation Permits as was once contemplated. Instead, an alternative permitting system involving voluntary registration of commercial outfitters is being recommended that would include placing a cap on the total number of outfitters allowed on those upper reaches and regulate the days that they could float in various sections.
The information being requested includes service dates, number of clients, guides, stream/lake used, stream section, put in and take out points. Permits to be placed on the boats will be issued to all outfitters who have submitted information. The permits will be transferable, that is they can be sold to another outfitter. A permit will be considered abandoned after three years of no reporting, at which time the permit would be entered into a lottery available to licensed outfitters.
The river from the dam to the Wally Crawford FAS just below Darby falls under the rules and has been divided into four sections. Commercial outfitters will be limited to two floats per outfitter per section per day. From June 1 through September 15 a non-commercial day will be established in each section.
Section 1 from the dam to Applebury (11 miles) will be closed to float-fishing one day a week on Friday.
Section 2 from Applebury to Job (8 miles) will be closed to float fishing on Saturday.
Section 3 from Job to Hannon (8 miles) will be closed to float-fishing on Sunday.
Section 4 from Hannon to Wally Crawford will be closed to float-fishing on Monday.
According to FWP officials, the restrictions are being implemented to track the use and any change in use in the various sections.
The idea of using a regular Special Recreation Permit not based on past use was rejected because of the potential “rush” it would set off amongst outfitters across the state and beyond to get a permit. Outfitters also balked at the fee generally charged for a regular Special Recreation Permit, about 3% of gross revenue, calling it a “real financial burden.” No fee was contemplated for the permits now under consideration due to the fact that the outfitters would be contributing the information on a specified format that would reduce the agency’s workload in implementing the permit process.
FWP Fisheries Manager Pat Saffel emphasized that this is still simply a recommendation being made to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission and would receive a lot of public comment in that process that could still change the proposed rule in significant ways. He urged everyone to stay in tune and stay involved.

There are no comments yet. Be the first and leave a response!

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?