(1) These rules apply to the process of developing, adopting, amending, or repealing management plans or rules that address river recreation. These rules do not apply to fishing seasons, limits, or regulations that the commission will continue to adopt as biennial or annual rules under MAPA's exceptions.

(2) The purpose of these rules is to provide guidance to the commission, the department, and department-appointed citizen advisory committees in the management of recreation on rivers. These rules seek to promote management of river recreation that provides a full variety of quality recreation for a diverse public and protects natural resources in rivers and on adjacent uplands. These rules also provide guidance for addressing social conflict on rivers.

(3) The general premise of these rules is that the public prefers to recreate on rivers without controls on their recreational experience, other than regulations that are necessary for managing aquatic resources, such as fishing regulations. Educating the public about river recreation issues can lead to modified behavior on rivers and the department can use education as a nonregulatory method to address social problems on rivers. The department should develop strategies for providing river information to all sectors of the recreating public.

(4) The demand on the natural resources and the social experience will continue to grow, and the best approach is a balance between quality of experience and unrestricted use of a limited resource. On any river or stream, there may be a time and a need for management intervention in order to maintain the quality of the river resources and the quality of the recreational experience. The quality of the river resource should be protected as the first and foremost priority.

(5) Further, the general premise of these rules is that if it becomes necessary to manage use on a river, the public prefers that less-restrictive management intervention be tried before proceeding to more-restrictive management intervention, and that rationing of use is the most restrictive form of management intervention.

(6) Individuals appointed to serve on a citizen advisory committee, river users, and those affected by river recreation shall be given an opportunity to be full and integral partners in the development of proposed management plans or rules. Participation of all interested parties is vital when developing management plans.

(7) Planning and management of Montana's river systems should provide for and conserve a full variety of recreation experiences and assure that river recreation historically enjoyed by people in Montana is recognized.

(8) Nonresidents are an important part of the state's tourism economy and rivers are an attraction to visitors. Nonresidents should have reasonable and equitable opportunities compared to other recreational users to enjoy Montana's resources. "Reasonable and equitable" as applied to nonresidents means recreational use that fairly considers the interests of all types of recreational users, and is not intended to mean that each type of recreational user must have the exact same share of use in terms of the timing, amount, and location of use.

(9) River service providers are an important industry in Montana and should be regulated. There are differences in management considerations between river service providers and private (nonguided) users. Management plans need to provide opportunities for river service providers to compete for the business of paying customers. Management processes should encourage viable and diverse types of commercial services.

(10) Partnerships with other agencies that lead to improved management of the river resources and better services to the public are encouraged.

History: 87-1-301, 87-1-303, MCA; IMP, 87-1-201, 87-1-301, 87-1-303, MCA; NEW, 2004 MAR p. 2718, Eff. 11/5/04.