A prominent Montana fishing guide says climate change is already impacting his business, and that statewide, tens of millions of fishing tourism dollars are at stake.
Dan Vermillion is the owner of Sweetwater Travel in Livingston, and has been on Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission since 2007.
"We have had major river closures in southwestern Montana at least one year out of every two, sometimes two out of three. This past year, for the first time since I’ve been on the commission we were closing rivers down the 2nd of July."
Vermillion is talking about rivers being closed to fishing in the afternoons due to high temperatures that make it tough for fish to survive.
"Look at the Bitterroot, the Blackfoot, the Beaverhead, the Big Hole, the Jefferson, the Ruby I believe. Pretty much all of southwestern Montana."
He says a warming climate that is pushing spring runoff earlier and diminishing mountain snowpack is starting to alter when he feels comfortable booking trips, and eroding Montana’s fishing economy.
"In March and April this year, when people were calling me and saying, ‘hey, should we come out and fish in August?’ I was actively discouraging people from fishing in August. And, when I grew up in Montana, in Billings in the ‘70s and ‘80s August was considered, especially on the Yellowstone, that’s the month when the ‘hoppers are out and the fish are really active, and some of the best fishing of the year. And so, what happens is, we start to try and consolidate all of our business during the time of the year when the water temps are coolest, so we’re really busy in July, and not so busy in August."
A 2007 report from the University of Montana says that guided fishing trips in the state generate $51.6 million a year in economic activity.
Vermillion’s comments were made in conjunction with a new report by the National Wildlife Federation highlighting how climate change impacts water resources and the wildlife that depend on them.