Edited 2/7, see comments.
Fishing outfitters who guide on the Madison River below Quake Lake are fired up about a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plan that would require them to pay 3% of their gross revenue from river trips for a permit to operate on the river. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) asserts that the money will go to preserving the health of the river. Additionally, the agency believes that the permit plan will serve to reduce overcrowding on the river and keep ‘rogue’ (note the typo in the story) guides from targeting the Madison without paying their share.
The BLM, the agency implementing the plan, stated at the recent public meeting that purpose of the plan is to "obtain compensation for commercial use of public resources."
I am not sure how to feel about this issue. I can see it from both sides. While it is pretty hard to argue against the commercial-use-of public-resources angle, outfitters like Craig Matthews of Blue Ribbon Flies have already sunk a lot of time and money into preserving the Madison for public use, and 3% of the gross for an outfitter’s river trips is pretty steep. I think 1.5% or 2% may have been greeted a little less harshly.
From the other side, the Madison is often an incredibly crowded river, and it is undeniable that a good share of the crowding comes in the form of outfitter drift boats and guided walk-and-wade trips. So, if this helps ease the crowding issue, it may be a good thing in the short-term (I can see some outfitters steering their clients toward the Gallatin next year). I just hope this plan doesn’t put some of the river’s most important advocates out of a job.