Fish and Wildlife Commission casts Madison River concerns to Legislature

DUNCAN ADAMS

Like a rainbow trout bedeviled by whirling disease, the debate about how to best manage user congestion on the Madison River has chased its tail for years.

Both commercial outfitters and recreational anglers on the river fret that the Madison is being loved to death. Some say the river’s magic is diminished by the crowds and its trout population stressed by repeated experiences of catch-and-release.

Numerous management strategies have been proposed through the years but none have gained traction.

It seems there’s no firm footing in sight. The latest recommendations, crafted by a 12-person Madison River Work Group, received no action Tuesday afternoon by the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission.  

Instead, following discussions between Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff and the office of Gov. Greg Gianforte, the Madison’s rocky issues will land with the Legislature for further study by a legislative committee, possibly the Environmental Quality Council.  

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Commissioner Pat Byorth expressed frustration about deferring once again a decision about managing use of the Madison River.

“We have all the data we could possibly want,” he said, noting it’s time to act.

Byorth made a motion to draft rules for

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