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Madison River

State wildlife officials are considering a proposal that would put new limits on recreational uses of the Madison River, seen here.

State wildlife officials will take up a proposal next week that would put new limits on recreational uses of the Madison River in southwest Montana in hopes of reducing crowding and social conflicts.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks developed the recreation management plan for the river from its outlet at Quake Lake to its confluence with the Jefferson River near Three Forks.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will hear a presentation on the proposal at its next meeting, set for 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 19 at its office in Helena. Commissioners will only decide whether to seek public input to start a process of considering the proposal. They will not be deciding on whether to approve it or not.

The plan is in response to years of public input through surveys, meetings and informal comments that point to a decline in user experiences on the Madison.

Many have expressed concerns about crowding on the river and its access points, the level of commercial outfitting and increasing numbers of visitors to the river, wildlife officials say.

Department data shows overall recreational use of the river continues to climb, with angling pressure increasing about 15 percent every two years. Reported commercial use is up 72 percent from 2008.

The department started developing a plan in 2012 and established a citizen advisory committee that includes outfitters, landowners, anglers and local business owners.

Among other things, the proposal would:

• Establish a cap on the number of commercial outfitters at 2016-2017 levels.

• Designate one reach of the river every day for non-commercial use, with rotating closed sections from Quake Lake to the Greycliff Fishing Access Site.

• Prohibit any commercial uses from the Greycliff Site to the Jefferson River to preserve the primitive nature of that reach.

• Prohibit use of any vessels or float tubes used to gain access for fishing in the two walk/wade sections to curb conflicts between boaters and anglers.

• Ban glass containers on the river.

If ultimately approved, the commission would review recreational rules for the Madison every five years as it does with similar plans.

“In putting this proposal together, we wanted to hear from and incorporate diverse voices of interest and we will continue to do that as the proposal moves forward,” said Regional Fisheries Manager Travis Horton.

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