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Vol. 24 #3 September 2015 
  • Fishing Outfitter Qualifications Upgraded
  • New Administration Suspension Rule
  • Online First Aid Course Reminder
  • Online Outfitter Logs, Op Plans Update
  • Boat Stickers Rule Revamped
  • FOAM, an MSU Student, and Fly Fishing
New Fishing Outfitter Qualifications

After nearly two years of rule crafting, the Board of Outfitters has upgraded the qualifications needed to become a fishing outfitter. An applicant must have 3 years and a minimum of 120 days experience as a fishing guide, and experience waivers are limited to no more than 50 days alone or in any combination of waiver types.

FOAM promoted this change in order to improve our licensing standards and ensure our outfitters are among the most qualified in the nation. More time as a fishing guide and more time on the water before becoming an outfitter translates into higher satisfaction for our clients, better guide selection by outfitters, and safer trips.

Anyone who applies for a fishing outfitter license before 12/31/2015 will be allowed to qualify with the previous 100-day experience rule. Anyone applying on or after 1/1/2016 must have the new qualifications.

If you have any questions about this change, contact our offices via email or call 406.763.5436. Thanks to all our members who answered our original experience survey that led to the new qualifications and/or supported our rule change request.
Administrative Suspension Rule

The Dept. of Labor & Industry and the Business Services Division (BSD) that oversees the Board of Outfitters promoted and passed Senate Bill 76 allowing licensing boards to administratively suspend licenses for, in the case of the MBO, failure to comply with such requirements as current, complete client logs, continued first aid certification, annual insurance coverage, failure to reply to an audit request from the board, failure to comply with a final order of the board as a result of the disciplinary process, rendering a "bad check", aka, a check on an account with non-sufficient funds (NSF), or a finding of reasonable grounds to "believe the licensee did not possess the qualifications for initial issuance of a license."

Why did the Dept. of Labor & Industry seek such authority, and why did the board accept this authority?  Because the board's screening panel that finds reasonable cause for discipline of any kind was continually frustrated by licensees who fail to respond to audit requests for a variety of required documents and, in rare circumstances, final orders of discipline issued by the board.

These "failure to respond" situations involve staffers repeatedly sending letters to licensees asking for some form of reply and documentation, screening and adjudication panel deliberations at multiple quarterly meetings, and compliance specialist and lawyer time spent on screening / adjudication panel orders and discipline stipulations that, in turn, receive no response from licensees.  These actions generate expenses all licensees pay for with their annual license fees.  

The outfitters and public members on the board accepted the administrative suspension authority because, as one outfitter member put it, "Why should those of us who comply be forced to pay the expenses of making the few bad apples respond and comply with disciplinary actions?  We hope the threat of a license suspension will make those few stand up, take notice, and send in whatever is requested right away before it comes to a license suspension.  Quick, complete responses will reduce the board's legal expenses and keep our annual fees stable." 

The new administrative suspension process goes like this:
  1. Compliance, audit, or fiscal specialists send out letters requesting various documents - FA cards, insurance certificates, violation histories, stipulations, final orders, etc.   (NOTE: It is the responsibility of all licensees to keep their address and contact information up-to-date with the board office - relying on a postal forwarding address is not enough);
  2. If there is no reply or a failure to send requested documents, a second letter is sent;
  3. If the second letter fails to get a reply or no document(s) are received, the compliance, audit or fiscal unit, after a finding of reasonable cause, sends a "Notice of Deficiency Determination" (NDD) letter ordering the licensee to "cure the deficiency" - comply with any request - within 60 days;
  4. "Curing the deficiency" involves sending a copy of the NDD letter along with the requested document(s) or sufficient payment within the 60-day limit;
  5. Failure to comply with the NDD letter and request before the 61st day authorizes the unit involved to administratively suspend a license until the request is fulfilled.
  6. Administrative suspensions are reported on the state's Licensee Lookup system with a status of "administrative suspension" and a note that the matter is "not connected to the delivery of services or based on the competency of the licensee's practice and is considered to be a technical or administrative violation rather than a disciplinary violation."

You can review all the details of administrative suspension by downloading our suspension explanation from our website.  Pay particular attention to sections on complying with an NDD letter, NSF checks, license renewal procedures and costs during an administrative suspension, and how to appeal a license suspension.
Online First Aid Course Reminder

Members probably know that the MBO allows licensees renewing their licenses to supply first aid certificates rendered by the online service ProFirstAid.  However, some first-time license applicants and license renewers are sending in certificates from online courses such as the International CPR Institute, the American Academy of CPR First Aid, or the American Healthcare Academy, among others.  These online courses have not been approved by the board as sufficient first aid training and are not acceptable.  The board may review these and other online courses in the future, but for now, they should not be taken in expectation of fulfilling the first aid certification requirement.  

Also, the MBO may be looking to change the first aid requirement to accept online courses only every third or fourth renewal period rather than forever after initial licensing. This would require a hands-on first aid course certificate every three or four years. FOAM will keep our members up-to-date on any such changes.
Online Logs / Operations Plans

For years, the MBO has talked about developing an online system for our client logs and operations plans that would allow individual outfitters to login and update their own logs and op plans. Well, we're a few steps closer to that reality.

Recently, an "eBiz" team of board staffers and two board members, hunt outfitter Pat Tabor and fish outfitter Robin Cunningham, met to line out just how this would work. They reviewed all outfitter and guide applications, logs, land use forms, operations plans, and other documents to see how they could be rendered online as part of the Business Services Division's online database, Accela.

Recent legislation and rule changes reduced the information required on client logs (client addresses are now optional), operations plans, and the like. The eBiz team intends to integrate these changes into the online forms they're developing.

The next meeting later this fall should focus on just how the online forms will "look and feel" - how outfitters can enter the data needed in the simplest way.  MBO members have gathered ideas over the past five or six years on how these forms should work, including:
  1. On client logs, drop-down columns of FAS choices, hopefully allowing each outfitter to enter only the ones they actually use rather having to select from all the FAS available;
  2. Client log auto-fill for previously entered client names and ALS numbers and guide names and license numbers;
  3. For op plans, easy update of first aid certifications, land-use details, new agency permits, and NCHU details;
  4. Ability to upload various required documents (FA certs, insurance certs, etc.) more easily than current techniques.
Each outfitter should be able to login anytime they want to update their client logs and keep them current without hassle on full-size computers, tablets, and smartPhones.  Similarly, operations plans should be simple to fill out and maintain.  Of course, familiar paper forms will be maintained for those less technically minded or resistant, though, eventually, their use may incur a fee to offset paper-handling and storage.

Another potential benefit of online data input could be - could be - data sharing with FWP wardens in the field so they can check license status and authorized areas from an outfitter's op plan rather than waiting 'til they return to their regional HQ.  First, the MBO must settle on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with FWP to make sure both sides are getting what they need, when they need it, without violating recent privacy rules regarding outfitter and guide records.

Like always, FOAM will keep members informed about upcoming changes.  Stay tuned, friends.
Watercraft ID Stickers Rule Revamped

Following feedback taken at FOAM's Annual Meeting last spring, the Board of Outfitters has proposed changes to the Watercraft ID (boat stickers) rule.  This proposal will be scheduled for public notice and a public comment period will be assigned as soon as possible.  However, because of the Secretary of State's timing of rule changes, any final adoption of these proposed changes will probably take place during the December, 2015 MBO meeting.  This means these changes won't be in effect until early 2016.

The changes include:
  1. License numbers shall be added to the tags and maintained in a readable fashion by licensees. We will receive blank red & white tags, then "sharpie" in our license numbers large enough and dark enough to read from a distance, and we must maintain the numbers readable over time.  To the board, "readable" means 2" high and bold print. (See the final paragraph re the sticker redesign)
  2. Each tag shall be affixed to the watercraft OR on a removable plaque. We can now stick the tags on our boat(s) permanently OR on plaques mounted at the bow, oarlocks, or stern of the boat. Recognizing that many licensees have always stuck their tags on boats, this seemed a simple way to legitimize a common in-field practice.
  3. Licensees may be provided with one set of TWO watercraft ID tags at the time of application for licensure or renewal at no charge, upon request.  A fee will be assessed for any additional or replacement sets requested at any time. We can ask for a free set of 2 tags each year, if we want them. Additional or replacement tags cost $5 for each set of two. The tags now have NO year tag, so they're good "forever" as long as our license numbers are kept readable from a distance. So, once licensees get enough tags for all their boats, annual tags should no longer be needed or requested. Of course, if any tag(s) are lost, you can request and pay for replacements.
  4. Once replacement tags are requested, temporary replacement watercraft ID tags may be downloaded from the board website, printed by licensees, and displayed pending receipt of watercraft ID to replace the lost tags.  Such temporary tags may not be used after replacement tags are received. By popular demand, downloadable paper replacement tags can be used while waiting for your "official" tags in the mail. The board expects the tags to be printed on a single sheet of 8.5" X 11" paper and look just like the "official" tags.
Because license numbers are now in the 5-digit range, the board asked that the tags be printed in "landscape" format (longer than tall) with plenty of room for writing in a longer number.  Since the tags don't need room for a year tag and the board asked that the MBO seal be reduced, there should be room for those new long license numbers.  If you use plaques or a stern mount to display your tags, you should be able to mount the new tags like usual, but with the numbers running up and down, not across - still readable, just reoriented.  

Those attending the FOAM Annual Meeting will remember FWP Region 3 ex-warden Captain Sam Shepard noting that, from his perspective, wardens will accept whatever tag format the board provides, so long as the numbers are readable.  Here's our test for that notion.  As noted before, the board is reworking its Memorandum of Understanding with FWP, and the boat sticker issue will be included so no one should be hassled or ticketed for this new way of displaying tags.  
FOAM, MSU Student, and Fly Fishing

The father of a new MSU transfer student contacted the FOAM offices recently looking for a volunteer outfitter or guide to help his son develop his fly fishing skills into a hobby he'd be passionate about.

This was not just a dad looking for some cheap or free fly fishing lessons - the student had some needs that remain confidential, but could only be met with some special circumstances.

FOAM staff sent out an eBlast a couple days ago to our Bozeman-area members, and we received a reply within a day:  A local newly-licensed guide stepped up to offer his services, saying he had plenty of time and was willing to offer the student the skills he wanted to develop.  Since the offer was sent only a few days ago, perhaps others will offer their services, too, so the father and student can interview and pick the right volunteer.  

Volunteers like the first guide to respond make FOAM what it is - a responsible business nonprofit organization that helps both its own members and the public who seek education or just a helping hand.

Think of the river cleanups, the TU chapters, and other conservation associations that count many FOAM members among their ranks, and the variety of volunteers helping such groups as Wounded Warriors, Warrior and Quiet Waters, or our own Take a Kid Fishing program.  We should all be proud of our volunteer efforts with conservation as well as helping others learn and enjoy fly fishing.  Thanks to all who have pitched in as volunteers.

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)
Dave McKee

Region 7 (Yellowstone)
Brant Oswald

Region 8 (Bighorn, Ft. Peck)
Matt McMeans

Guide-at-Large Director
Jason Brininstool

FOAM Office
Robin Cunningham
Copyright © 2015 FOAM, All rights reserved.

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