Missoula’s Last Best Outdoor Fest celebrates Montana’s outdoor recreation opportunities and outdoor businesses. There’s no argument outdoor recreation is integral to Montana’s economy. Public lands and access play a major role.
The double-edged sword of this situation is the impact of tourism and commercial outfitting on the Montana resident. Private land leased by outfitters and blocked access to public lands is increasing. Montana’s Stream Access Law is constantly challenged. The numbers of commercial boats on most Montana rivers are not regulated.
Nowhere is this impact more keenly experienced than fishing our rivers. Fish, Wildlife and Parks cameras on the Madison River have recorded 90 to 100% guided boats on specific stretches. FWP has allegedly recorded the same situation on the Blackfoot River.
There is a method of mitigation. “Citizens Days” have worked for decades on the Beaverhead and Big Hole rivers. Specific stretches of river are closed to guiding once a week. Outfitters, recreationists and FWP implemented this strategy on the upper Bitterroot. This gives the resident a weekly reprieve from the competitive nature of guided fishing.
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Recreation brings in money and jobs, but there is no free economic growth. Encourage policy makers to factor in the Montana resident’s recreation opportunities.