KTVH: Montana Congressional Delegation pushes for permit flexibility for outfitters following destructive flooding

by John Riley

Montana’s congressional delegation – with the support of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association – are asking the federal government for flexibility in the permitting process in the wake of devastating flooding in the Yellowstone area.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Sen Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., sent a letter dated June 19, 2022, to the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.

They say flexibility in the permitting process would help avoid severe economic damage to Montana’s rural communities and small businesses impacted by recent floods.

The Montana Outfitters and Guides Association supports this effort and urges quick action as the busy summer season begins.

“Montana’s outfitters and guides continue to hemorrhage revenue daily and are scrambling to come up with alternatives to be able pay staff and service their clients,” said Minard. “Rafting guides have identified new access points, backcountry guides are looking for alternative trailheads, fishing guides need new put-ins and walk-in options. While they are coming up with creative solutions to try and save their summer season, it’s up to BLM and USFS to allow for the temporary permitting changes.”

Tester told MTN with key infrastructure connecting Montana to Yellowstone damaged or destroyed, this is a short-term solution that can aid impacted communities while work begins to repair roads and bridges.

“Montana continues to be open for business, we continue to want to have tourists come in. This will give those outfitters the opportunity to operate in wake of the catastrophic flooding that we’ve seen in southern Montana,” said Tester.

Being cut off from Yellowstone crowds will have a significant impact on communities like Red Lodge and Gardiner.

Patrick Sipp, of Flying Pig Adventures, is one of many guides working on an immediate solution to benefit his business as the rest of the Gardiner community.

“Flooding has left us unable to access our typical take-out for our half-day rafting trips,” said Sipp. “While we are actively refunding customers, we are hoping to be able to run trips again soon and salvage a portion of the summer. To do this, we need to be granted immediate, temporary access to other take-outs until we identify another viable alternative.”