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We have heard from several of our guide and outfitter members that the time it takes to receive a renewed Independent Contractor Exemption Certificate (ICEC) has been delayed by a backlog of applications.  So, if you are renewing your ICEC, don't wait until the last minute before you start working on the water.  The Independent Contractor Central Unit (ICCU) may take up to 15 days to issue a renewed ICEC, so plan accordingly and get your certificate renewed as soon as possible.

The same goes for your FOAM membership and liability insurance coverage - while we've streamlined the renewal process whether you use paper forms or our online signup, it still takes up to 48 hours during a work week to bind your insurance and email your certificate(s) to you.  Renew soon, then get to work.
Vol. 25 #1 March 2016 
  • FOAM annual meeting review
  • Board of Outfitters update
  • FOAM Fund restart
  • BH2 Rule proposal update

Those members who attended our Annual Membership meeting enjoyed the new day-and-a-half format and praised a new addition to the scheduled agenda items. 

Friday's free first aid course was not your standard "Check, call, care" urban video-and-lecture presentation. Board member Phil Sgamma walked members through many aspects of hands-on first aid, each tied to a particular situation specific to our on-water needs.  Riverbank CPR, tips to avoid cool- or cold-weather hypothermia, how to tell heat stroke from heat exhaustion, simple splinting techniques using basic items on hand, right through serious injuries like deep cuts, broken limbs, or head traumas - all were covered in as much depth as the members wanted or needed.  Yes, there was a test, and certificates will be issued, but the main take-away was honed first aid skills tuned to real-world specifics common to our profession.  FOAM was glad to sponsor the class: The hands-on skills our members learned certainly warrant the small fees our association paid.  We look forward to providing this course next year and hope members take advantage of the offer.

Late on Friday, the irrepressible Mark Raisler walked members through his course, "How to market your business with a cellphone."  Using current online social media statistics, Mark described and showed how a few moments each day, on the water or not, outfitters can boost their appeal, broaden their potential client base, and remind current clients about the unique opportunities of our individual businesses. Take a picture, upload it to your website or Instagram with a sentence about how great the day, the fish, the moment was.  Make a brief video that captures fishing, the weather, boating, picking flies - anything tied to fishing and its techniques, ambiance or humor - and you've got an attention-getting ad for your business.

Mark even educated a very reluctant self-described "old school" outfitter who claimed he could barely make a phone call on his cellphone.  Step by step, Mark led him through making a very short video of the outfitter himself in the hotel learning these modern skills, then uploaded it to the web for all to see.  The "old-schooler" left eyeing his phone and muttering to himself, "I can do this . . . "  

On Saturday, FWP's Chris Clancy walked us through the current circumstances of the emergency Bitterroot river closure rules covering the stretch that includes the Woodside Diversion and talked about the timing for construction of a new diversion layout including a boat slide to provide safe passage through the structure.  

Jason Mullen, FWP biologist from Great Falls, presented the current Missouri river creel census results, noting how anglers felt about fishing quality, angling pressure, crowding, and impressions of commercial use.  Two notable statistical outcomes - while many respondents felt angling pressure was up, an equal or higher number did not see crowding as an issue, and the perception of commercial use was much higher than the actual use figures.  Even when asked whether residents, nonresidents, or commercial operators should be somehow restricted to relieve pressure, no single group was singled out by an majority of responses as a likely or favored target. 

Steve Gallus, Executive Officer for the Board of Outfitters finished the morning with a walk-through of the board's website, noting each section's information load, reviewed the various online forms available, and described the site's many resources useful to licensees.

After lunch, FOAM board member Pat Straub outlined the characteristics of a quality guide and reviewed what outfitters and a guide should expect from each other.  He then took prospective and newly-licensed guides through the real-life duties, financial insights, and reality checks that can help someone decide if they really want to be a guide, and if so, how to best learn the techniques and people skills that can lead to a successful guiding career.

Next, Bret Seng, CEO of ShuttleSnap, an online and app-driven shuttle booking service, demonstrated in real time the benefits of his new but increasingly popular utility.  Users can book and pay for a shuttle, receive confirmation via a text in minutes, and be assured their rig will be in the right place at the right time, all for free to licensed outfitters and guides.  Plus, Seng pointed out that the use stats generated by the service will be useful to river access managers when planning new sites or revamping current ones.  

Check out ShuttleSnap online to review the booking process (pick a state - Montana or Idaho currently - a river, select the put-in and take-out from a Google map with pin-pointed FAS, set your date and time, enter the number of rigs, pick a provider, put in your contact info, pay, and receive confirmation with your phone.

Art Hoffart of the Bissell Agency in Bozeman reviewed the well-known and not-so-well-known insurance services our partnership can provide, then described the claims process from how to make a claim through getting a payment.  Random questions about commercial auto coverage, additional insureds, liability history of FOAM members, and the stability of our insurance premium rates rounded out the presentation.

Robin Cunningham and Brant Oswald next talked about a recent member's run-in with a Park County resident who called a Livingston sheriff out to ticket the outfitter member for trespassing on private property and violating a Dept. of Transportation (DOT) law prohibiting driving a motor vehicle in a streambed when the outfitter drove his rig below the high water mark across an intermittent stream channel during low water to access the Yellowstone river.

Turns out, the "private property" wasn't so private after all - the local county attorney review land records and determined that the ground was actually public, and, strangely enough, the No Trespassing sign the resident had placed in the area mysteriously disappeared within a few days.  

More to the point, Cunningham and Oswald wondered aloud to members how the DOT statute re driving in a streambed might apply during increasingly low-water situations where access points had ramps that stopped far from the actual water's edge. Cunningham noted that in conversations with FWP warden captains, none of them were keen on issuing citations for this particular violation, though, of course, county sheriffs could.  Several members immediately talked about times when John or Jane Q. Public drove across riverside shingle or gravel to access stretches of their local rivers.  The final outcome?  An agreement to keep an eye on access situations like this and responsibly reaching the water as directly as possible, launching as quickly as possible, and getting a rig out of the streambed as soon as possible.  

The Most Popular Addition . . .
Last, outfitter Phil Sgamma, guides Josh Tapp and Jake VanOppen, and outfitter and FOAM board member Russell Parks led a serious discussion based on four recent "case studies" of situations that required life-saving or life preserving measures to protect clients during guided trips, describing, as Russell put it, "actual events in the area detailing what occurred, what the response was, the outcome, and what could be done differently.each scenario."  The actions and thoughts of these members with a variety of First Responder, EMT, Wilderness First Responder skills brought out the meaning of client care and helped all attending understand just what our responsibilities are.  Many "what if" and "what about" questions added to the "continuing education" factor this presentation brought to the meeting.  Member attending the meeting agreed that this was the most popular segment and asked to continue this format in future meetings.  

We wound up with our beer, snacks, and ever-popular raffle.  If you came, thanks for attending; if you didn't, think about coming next year.  In all cases, thank you for being FOAM members.
The MBO has recently proposed a series of rule changes and new rules that will be out for your comments soon.  Included in the package are:
1) A rule allowing experience as a guide in another state to count towards the experience requirement to become an outfitter.  Current rule only counts experience as an outfitter in another state, and the board realized that most other states license only guides and have no outfitter license.
2) Repeal of an audit associated with the transfer of allocated clients days on river(s) and its fee
3) Amending the rule covering retaking of the outfitter exam allowing a retake sooner than 30 days after the date of an exam failure
4) Amending rules re watercraft ID's to required licensees to add their license # to boat tags rather than having staff apply the number, issuing tags with no annual date to allow tags to be used for the current and future years without replacement, allowing licensees to affix the tags to a watercraft instead of to a removable plaque, issuing a paper temporary boat tag to licensees while waiting for delivery of replacement tags
5) Redefining operations plans rules to allow outfitter license applicants and licensed outfitters amending an existing operation plan to submit a summary of their operations plan or amendment(s) to a plan rather than submitting required documents such as agency permits and landowner permission forms, aka L-1's.  (Compliance measures have not been formally proposed by the board but possibilities include audits or other measures.)

At the March meeting, Pat Tabor, the big game hunting board member, presented a proposal that should interest FOAM members - a request to remove the "waterbody and stretch" information from fishing outfitter client logs.  Tabor argued that requiring such information is not within the scope of the board's mission since it has little relation to public health, safety, or welfare and that it is a burden laid upon many outfitters for the possible future benefit of a "handful of outfitters."  

Robin Cunningham, fishing outfitter member of the board, noted that this commercial use information has proven useful in several FWP river management planning discussions (Big Hole, Beaverhead, Blackfoot and Madison rivers), thereby serving public welfare much like the rules requirement for hunting outfitters to record species and gender and a law requiring they note the location where game was taken benefit the public by providing data aiding land access and big game resource management planning.  
And, such data may well serve more than a few fishing outfitters in any future allocation schemes.  Take into account the fact that outfitters serving clients on the Bitterroot, Clark Fork, sections of the Flathead system that do not currently require permits, Missouri, Dearborn, Yellowstone, Bighorn, Boulder and other waters have long anticipated river management plans that include allocation distribution, and it's easy to understand that eliminating accurate historical use records may affect more than a "handful" of fishing outfitters. Based on Board of Outfitters fishing outfitter tally sheets from 2006, 342 outfitter licensed to provide fishing services had historical use on these rivers alone. It's safe to assume that count has grown in the last decade and includes more rivers that could face management.

Taking a cue from rivers with allocation already applied, the years used to determine historical use are typically the most recent, so the 2006 tallies already recorded most likely won't count.  All the more reason to maintain current use level records now and into the future.

If you have concerns about this proposal to drop the objective recording of your individual use records on waterbodies in Montana, you may choose to express those concerns to Board of Outfitter members, including those representing fishing outfitters - Robin Cunningham, fishing outfitter, and John Way and Rob Arnaud, both fishing / hunting outfitters.  Send any comments directly to the board, not the individual board members, by email or in writing to Board of Outfitters, 301 South Park, 4th Floor, P.O. Box 200513, Helena, MT 59620-0513. Copy FOAM to your email so we can track your comments, too.

The FOAM Conservation Fund we started in the late '90's and discontinued after 9/11/2001 served as our outreach and granting vehicle to back small conservation and river-related restoration or protection projects as a way to support the resources we make our living on.  

Recent requests for donations for projects related to river and fisheries resources inspired our board members to reinstate the Fund before the end of 2016.  Originally, our 1997 board members realized that having our new or repeat clients in our boats or at our side for many hours a day provided moments to discuss conservation issues with them and interest them in contributing to our Fund.  Using select client lists from participating FOAM outfitters, we sent letters  signed by their outfitters to likely contributors outlining our goals, possible projects, and asking for donations. Over the course of three years, we gathered some $15,000 in contributions and granted up to $5,000 for a series of restoration or protection projects, as well as writing and distributing a Fund newsletter to our contributors touting our conservation efforts.  

The current board members will discuss how to revive these efforts during our April board meeting.  If you have suggestions, want to get involved, or are willing to comb your client lists for prospective contributors, contact the FOAM offices via email, call 406.763.5436, or write FOAM, PO Box 67, Gal. Gtwy MT 59730.  

Every five years, the Big Hole / Beaverhead (BH2) recreation use rules are reviewed for effectiveness and possible changes.  This year, after a series of scoping meetings in Dillon and Butte, we heard that outfitters were upset that temporary use days, aka "one-boat outfitter" temp days, were being distributed to outfitters who had transferred (sold) their allocated days to another licensee and were reapplying for new temp days. In several cases, these applicants were awarded days based on their prior experience as an outfitter on either river while other applicants with less or no experience were passed over.  

After talking with our director from that area, Matt Greemore, FOAM's Executive Director related these concerns to Dan Vermillion, our FWP region's member on the FWP Commission.  Vermillion proposed a change to the current BH2 rules, prohibiting outfitters who had surrendered, transferred, or had their BH2 permit revoked from reapplying via the temp day process.  The FWP Commission agreed, officially proposed the rule amendment, and took public comment until last Friday, March 25th.  

After thinking more about the proposal, Cunningham suggested to Vermillion that outfitters who had voluntarily surrendered their permits should not be barred from reapplying.  Why?  Simply put, the reasons for volunteering a permit were typically personal ones - a financial downturn, family concerns, divorce, illness, and other personal circumstances may have led or forced an outfitter to quit the BH2 rivers.  It seemed unfair to punish an outfitter for making a voluntary surrender along with those who willingly transferred a permit or had one revoked.  So, FOAM made written and oral comments asking the commission to amend the proposed rule to remove the phrase "surrendered" from the rule.  

The FWP Commission is scheduled to review public comment and adopt a final rule during their May, 2016 meeting.  
FOAM Directors and Staff
Region 1 (Kooteani, Flathead)
Matt DiPaulo

Region 2 (Bitterroot, Clark Fork)
Russell Parks

Region 3 (Missouri)
Mark Raisler

Region 4 (Big Hole, B'head)
Matt Greemore

Region 5 (Madison)
Phil Sgamma
Region 6 (Gallatin)
Pat Straub

Region 7 (Yellowstone)
Brant Oswald

Region 8 (Bighorn, Ft. Peck)
Matt McMeans

Guide-at-Large Director
Jason Brininstool

FOAM Office
Robin Cunningham
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