Fishing Access Along Madison River Protected (MT)

BOZEMAN, Montana, 7/7/2006: – The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national land conservation organization, joined project partners and more than 400 supporters today on the Madison River to celebrate the conservation of almost 1,700 acres of critical habitat and fishing and hunting grounds, located adjacent to and near the famous Three Dollar Bridge, between Ennis and West Yellowstone.

This event culminates a four-year effort to protect a key piece of one of the most important wildlife corridors in the Yellowstone region and secures fishing and public hunting rights to some of the finest fly fishing waters and big game habitat in southwest Montana.

U.S. Senator Conrad Burns, Chairman of the Senate’s Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, who worked to secure $2 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for this effort, was the keynote speaker at the event. Senator Burns led Montana’s Congressional delegation in their unanimous support of this pivotal Madison River conservation effort.

“I am extremely pleased to have helped protect this key piece of open space and wildlife habitat,” said Sen. Burns. “I am especially proud to be part of an effort that greatly enhances public access while still allowing traditional ranching to continue. This project has been widely supported by neighbors, local businessmen, sportsmen and the recreating public. I will continue to work hard as Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to make sure that special places like this are protected for future generations.”

Senator Burns was joined by Mark Rey, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. Under Secretary Rey said, “This project demonstrates the use of practical, innovative, partnerships to manage our natural resources. “I’m pleased to see this successful, cooperative venture to conserve critical habitat–as well as hunting and fishing grounds–along the Madison River.”

The event was also a celebration of fly fishing. The project had the support of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA), local guides and shop owners, and the Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF), which provided fly tying and casting demonstrations along the river as part of the event’s activities.

Fly shop owner, guide and author Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies, said, “Fly fishers from around the world will be forever grateful to The Trust for Public Land for conserving this section of the Madison. I know I am because it is one of my favorites.” Mathews spearheaded the effort to secure access to the Three Dollar Bridge several years ago, when Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) acquired 100 acres on both sides of the river. He continues to be an exceptional conservation leader in the region.

“Making more of this section of the Madison River permanently accessible to the public is a huge victory for the entire fly-fishing community. The Trust for Public Land is a welcome partner in protecting our cherished fly-fishing waters,” said R. P. Van Gytenbeek, President and CEO, of FFF.

AFFTA President Robert Ramsay said, “Anyone who loves the sport of fly fishing owes a debt of gratitude to the Trust for Public Land for their successful efforts to preserve public access to fly waters across this nation. Whether on fabled trout streams like Montana’s Madison River or lesser known rivers, streams and lakes around the country, these successes help to ensure that fly anglers will always have places to exercise their passion and enjoy the wonders of nature. As an industry that relies on both the health of and access to our nation’s great angling waters, it is essential that more and more fly fishing industry leaders follow the example set by Craig Mathews by taking leading roles to support similar TPL projects.”

Alex Diekmann, who heads TPL’s Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem program said, “One of the main goals of our work at TPL is to make it possible for the public to enjoy a closer connection with nature and to provide better access to the lands we cherish.”

Last year, using the LWCF funds provided by Congress, TPL purchased a conservation easement on the 1,521 acres that make up the main part of the historic Olliffe Ranch and are located on the north side of Highway 287, adjacent to the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and just a few miles west of Quake Lake. TPL also purchased an adjacent 147-acre parcel owned by Rick and MaryLee Reese in December 2005 and conveyed it to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in the forest. The Forest Service plans to build a new trailhead at this location, providing a much-needed access point to the nearby Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area.

TPL also secured permanent public hunting access to the 1,521 acres on the Olliffe Ranch that are now subject to the conservation easement. But more importantly, TPL also acquired a fishing trail access easement on the 400 acres that the Olliffe family owns on the south side of Highway 287 along the Madison River. As Diekmann pointed out: “While the Olliffes have been generous in allowing anglers to pass through their land, this easement guarantees that the public will always have direct access – no matter who owns the property in the future.”

As a result of TPL’s effort, the public now has permanent walk-in access to more than a one mile-long section of the Madison River, considered among the finest fly fishing water in the West and only reachable on foot, as float fishing is not allowed. The new river trail easement, which was formally granted to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) at the event, is considered the missing link between the Three Dollar Bridge access site to the west and the Raynolds Pass access site to the east – both located in the Madison’s most popular stretch – the nine miles between Quake Lake and Lyons Bridge. With this new addition, anglers can now park at either access site and fish a full four miles for browns and rainbows that average over 15 inches in length.

According to Kurt Alt, Wildlife Manger for MWFP’s Region 3, “what makes this conservation easement particularly important is how it protects a critical wildlife corridor between Yellowstone National Park and the Madison Valley for elk, grizzly bear, antelope and deer; how it provides permanent hunting access to the public; and how it preserves extraordinary scenic values from the Madison River by limiting additional man-made structures – all while allowing the Olliffes to continue traditional ranching activities, as they always have since 1899 when they first homesteaded the land.”

“Everything we do at TPL revolves around a very simple mission. We call it land for people. It’s all about protecting landscapes that communities and people care about,” added Diekmann. “This project has it all. Not only are we protecting a key part of one of the most critical wildlife corridors in the Greater Yellowstone area, but we are also providing extraordinary hunting and fishing opportunities to the sporting public – all while keeping one of the oldest ranching families in the Madison Valley on the land. This is a win-win for everyone involved.”

Since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has protected over 2.2 million acres nationwide with a value in excess of $4 billion. In Montana alone, the national non-profit organization has been responsible for conserving more than 175,000 acres in the last 10 years. This includes incredible fishing, hunting and recreation land in the Taylor Fork drainage south of Big Sky, the Swan Valley between the Mission and Bob Marshall Wilderness Areas and the Thompson and Fisher river drainages northwest of Missoula. To learn more about TPL, please go to