Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Region 3 has recently put out a proposal that many in the town of Ennis feel will devastate their economy.
“I’ve lived here for 35 years and this entire community is so reliant on the fishing community and the people that it brings to our town,” said Cindy Sciuchetti, who owns multiple businesses in Ennis.
After having an environmental assessment on the Madison River, FWP has plans for rest and rotation along the river, but also regulating fishing outfitters.
“Making a small river isn’t the answer," said fishing outfitter and Ennis business owner John Way. "You put 10 people in a box and all of a sudden you make the box smaller, well, now they’re more crowded. The rest and rotation just doesn’t work on a 54-mile river. If this passes we’re going to have to rearrange our business and probably not run as many trips. It’s going to impact our bottom line, impact hiring, impact the amount of fishermen that walk up and down Main Street and the amount of dollars that go into this community.”
Chris Gentry started a petition to deny FWP Region 3's request to put their plan out for public comment later this week.
“The impacts from COVID itself could last 3-5 years," the Ennis Madison Foods owner said. "Right now, we don’t need any more dampers on our economy. Ennis doesn’t have anything to fall back on, we have that river to fall on.”
Way is hoping to make 50% of what he would in a normal year.
“We’re just trying to tell Fish, Wildlife, and Parks now’s not the time to push this forward," he said. "Let all the businesses get back on their feet and respond after this year and then we can talk about changes that affect businesses in this community down the road.”
For a town that relies on money from tourism to survive, this could have a significant impact, profits have already been down due to the pandemic.
“We really need the parade, the rodeos, we need the river, we need the things we’ve always had to be here next year," Sciuchetti said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana (FOAM) created the environmental assessment alongside FWP. Several groups made recommendations to the FWP prior to the creation of the assessment, but FOAM did not have a hand in creating it.