The Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research
On August 19, 2016, Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) instituted a temporary emergency closure on a large extent of the Yellowstone River and its tributaries between the northern Yellowstone National Park boundary near Gardiner, MT and Laurel, MT, about 183 miles downriver. The closure applied to all water based recreation uses on the affected rivers and streams. FWP’s actions followed the identification of the presence of an invasive parasite known to cause proliferative kidney disease in mountain whitefish. FWP’s decision to institute the temporary closure was based not only on the observed presence of the parasite, but also a number of confounding conditions that may threaten longer term impacts if not effectively addressed. The temporary closure is likely to significantly impact both the recreational fishing and the guided river excursion industries, as August and September are both busy seasons. This white paper provides a summary of the contribution of water based activities (fishing, rafting, floating, canoeing, and kayaking) to the Montana economy in general, and a preliminary estimation of the potential impacts the 2-3 week Yellowstone closure had on the Park County economy.