One of the big complaints that I routinely hear is how our natural resources are being over used. Campgrounds are full, lakes are crowded, too many guide trips on the best waters, too many hunters and fishermen from out of state, too much water for irrigation, …
All of this at a time when hunting and fishing licenses sales are declining. With the aging Baby Boomers hanging up their rods and guns, our sporting ranks are declining. What is increasing are the non-resident sportsmen that want to experience the Last Best Place.
Yellowstone Park is a perfect example. The park is seeing increasing tourist numbers that include international travelers. Old Faithful is one of the worlds wonders. The roads in the park are still the same as when I travelled on them as child in the sixties. There have been improvements, changes in management, increased lodging and improved camping, but this has not kept up with demand. Tent sites and narrow roads have become crammed with giant motorhomes and slide out fifth wheel hotels on wheels. Like it or not, the park is way too crowded!
Are we loving our natural resources to death? The Madison River recorded over 175,000 angler days last season. Many of those were guided trips were out of state sportsmen. This certainly generates revenue, but it also adds physical stress and higher mortality to the Catch and Release fisheries. It is estimated that over 100,000 trout die each year in the Madison River because of getting caught. That data is based on a .65% of fish die per angler. That is less than one fish a day but when that magnifies out to 175,000 angler days, mortality becomes a factor.
Drive along the river road, when the salmon fly hatch is going, on to see what a crowded river looks like. Look at the Lower Madison on a hot summer day and watch the “tuber hatch” flotilla take over. Yes, the beloved Madison River is getting loved to death!
The sign in Ennis, along the Madison, says the “population of trout is 11 million” in the local environs, and the Madison River. Mortality exists in all the watersheds. Many fish are released but some fish become dinner and none of these numbers include natural mortality and predation. The sign may need updating sooner than we want.
How much pressure is too much? When do we limit or restrict usage? What laws would need to be implemented to regulate usage? Who would be allowed or limited to use our resources? Why would we allow the exploitation to continue?
These are hard questions that face us. We all love our open spaces. Our National Parks, waters, and lands belong to every citizen. The days of “Take only a picture and leave only a footprint “has changed.
Human footprints are too many and too large!
For more Montana Grant, visit his website at www.montanagrantfishing.com.