Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Regulation Shmegulation

U snooze u lose.

And then there is the fact that FWP is going to begin the process of determining how to go about creating a whole new management program on the Madison. This will have to do with things like limiting both commercial and recreational usage on the river. The general public or average angler most likely won't be affected from this new program, but businesses like mine and non-resident anglers will most likely have their usage restricted in some way. It's all "on the table" right now as things are in the very early stages, but something is going to change.

The problem with this is not in the end result as there can hardly be any doubt that the Madison can be crowded. The problem is that it's a big river and the commercial congestion is centered around Lyon's Bridge for most of the year. So, let's say 15 miles of the river. The upper river is usually the first thing to clear in the spring so it sees a lot of use throughout it's course for the first 2-3 weeks of dropping water. Other than those two events though, it really isn't too crowded. I'm on that river a lot and there is very little commercial traffic from Macatee to Ennis Lake after salmonflies. Sure, there is the odd day when it is but more times than not you can expect to have most of the river to yourself or a handful of boats at most on most days.

Also, save the game warden in Ennis, there is virtually no visible enforcement of the current commercial use regulations that are in place. Outfitters contribute about $70000 to the Madison river every year through the BLM's implementation of the current SRP that is in place. That number is a few years old but I imagine that it is somewhere in that ballpark today. Essentially what happened is that the BLM decided that they had the right to 3% of the gross income of all commercial operations that take part on their land. This is not unique to the Madison and I think that most commercial users feel a little bit of pride in knowing that they are contributing directly to the resource....if you consider paying administrative costs and paving a few boat ramps the resource that is. Unless they are planning on raising fees another 3-5%, I don't see how they will possibly be able to effectively administer this developing plan

My problem with that program has always centered around the fact that our stream access laws provide for recreational opportunities in between the high water marks and the stream access laws apply to commercial usage as well. I've always felt that a boat launching fee would be much more appropriate as that's the only part of the trip we actually use the govt land. The rest of the time - the majority of the trip - is spent on our beloved highway system, county roads, and all the glorious water that we are all entitled to use per our state's stream access law which has been withheld legislature after legislature and even a US Supreme Court case. In addition, we already pay a $100 fee to FWP for use of their fishing access sites.

It all sounds like  chump change until one starts to realize that 10 years ago, a guided fishing trip cost roughly $300 a day. If you rely on the free market influences (fuel prices amongst others), there has been a significant increase in costs to run a trip in that time of year. Throw on the increases in fees (a voluntary tax) and hours that it takes to administer the paperwork and increased insurance obligation and you're talking another 20%. However, the market sets it's own price and now we are sitting at around $450 for that same day of guided fishing. I'm kind of going by the seat of my pants here but the jist of the situation is that the neither of the primary users of the resource have benefited from this increase in govt. fees. The commercial operator pays more expense which gets passed along to the consumer and the govt adds no value to that relationship and the resource it regulates which in this case is ultimately the experience that a guide and guest has on the river. Whoa nelly...that's heavy.

So...occupy this! It's great to be an American where I can express my sentiment and take advantage of one of the things that the govt was actually put in place to right to free speech. As always...I could be wrong. More to come on the Madison situation and I encourage everyone to keep an eye out for public meetings whether you are for or against more regulation, it's important that your opinion is heard so that your interests will be considered while developing this plan.

Changes will happen in how most of us use the Madison River. Commercial users are deeply tied to this resource in ways that far transcend the almighty dollar. At the end of the day, everyone of us does this guiding thing because we all want to recreate that "ahhah" moment we had many years ago for the folks that we take out. Very few outfitters make enough money to worry about their tax brackets, the occupation is a means to a stable state of mind for most of us, not the bank.

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