State fisheries managers are now asking Montana anglers for their suggestions about ways current fishing regulations might be changed for the coming year to benefit anglers or for the welfare of our fisheries resources.
In 1993 the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission began adopting fishing regulations on a biennial (two-year) basis. The intent of such a regulation-setting system, which is now getting underway for the years 1998 and 1999, is to minimize changes in regulations, reduce the level of frustration among anglers and give the fishing public more time to take part in the process.
Jim Satterfield, chief of fisheries management for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Helena, said the identification of problems experienced with the regulations in place over the last couple of years, as well as the call for issues of concern to anglers and the general public as they relate to existing regulations, is the first step in setting regulations for the next two years. This stage of the regulation-setting process is now underway and extends through the beginning of June.
"The process focuses first on identifying problems and not solutions," he explained. "Too often we see groups come in polarized on solutions before there has even been agreement that a problem exists. We'll be asking our publics and ourselves what problems are out there, then we'll look at what solutions might be available." Soon, Satterfield said, FWP fisheries biologists will begin setting up meetings, holding public open houses and employing other means to identify problems and issues of concern. Satterfield said FWP has developed a set of guidelines to determine the significance of problems and issues and to evaluate alternative solutions. Briefly, these guidelines are:
An important goal of the process and the use of guidelines to determine needed changes, Satterfield said, is to minimize the number of regulation changes, make them less complex and reduce inconsistencies.
"Although this process doesn't eliminate controversy," he continued, "it does provide an opportunity for everyone interested to express their views, to discuss problems and to see what options are available to ensure that Montana continues to offer diverse and quality angling experiences. And anglers seem to like it."