Montana BHA Issues

Montana BHA's Response to a Slanted Survey on Federal Land Management in Montana

CampingThe following is Montana BHA's response to a recent survey conducted by the Environmental Quality Council in regards to the management of federal lands in the state.

Montana Environmental Quality Council

PO Box 201704

Helena, MT 59620-1704

Attention:  EQC Members:

As a statewide hunting and angling organization, Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (MT BHA) consists of over 300 engaged Montana men and women. The following is our response to SJ 15 and the recent survey of counties re SJ15 by EQC.

Resident hunters and anglers in Montana are increasingly dependent on public lands to hunt and fish, as most private lands have become much more difficult to access.   In fact, approximately 68 percent of resident hunters hunt on public land.  This is important to note as only 29% of the state is held in federal ownership.  To attempt to accommodate hunters and anglers on less than a third of the state will require very careful management of habitat for both wildlife and fish.  Hence to retain huntable and fishable populations, protecting and enhancing habitat to support these species should be the core element considered for the management of public land.

Speak-up for your public lands, sign the Sportsman's Pledge here

MT BHA Submits Major Concerns about Divide Travel Plan and Elk Security Amendment Draft Environmental Impact Statement

gallatin nfMontana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is comprised of Montana hunters and fishermen who value quality fish and wildlife habitat and maintenance or enhancement of traditional non-motorized hunting and fishing opportunities.  Many of our members hunt and fish almost exclusively on public lands, and many  focus on the National Forest lands in the Divide travel plan area.  We have a deep commitment to protection of wildlife and fisheries habitats and traditional non-motorized hunting and fishing not only for the present, but to assure equal opportunities for our children and their children.

We request each of our comments be individually and thoroughly addressed in the process and be entered into the public record in their entirety.  Montana BHA has previously commented on this process as early as 2008.

The Divide Travel Plan process is a rare opportunity to move the Helena substantially toward meeting the Helena Forest Plan goals, objectives, and standards.  In contrast, most day to day Forest Service business has only minor effects moving toward meeting the goals, objectives and standards of the Helena Forest Plan.  Forest Plan Direction appropriately focuses heavily on management of the road and trail network for most Forest Plan goals, objectives and Standards.  Most of the adverse effects of man’s activities on the Forest resources are related to roads, trails, and use associated with them.

Montana BHA Advocates for Science-Based Sage Grouse Management & Hunting

Dan Vermillion, Chairman

Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission

P.O. Box 200701

Helena, MT 59620-0701

Dear Chairman Vermillion and Members of the Commission:

As you may be aware, Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers has strongly advocated for sage grouse and their habitat in both the Montana Sage Grouse Conservation Plan, as well as in all the major BLM Resource Management Plans currently being revised across Montana.    We are committed to preservation of sage grouse populations and their habitats across Montana.  That being said, our organization has not seen science based evidence that would justify ending sage grouse hunting on a statewide basis.

We believe the regulation of sage grouse hunting should be premised on the best available science.  Therefore, we applaud the recent division of the state into 3 subunits for the better management of sage grouse populations.  We also support restricting sage grouse hunting if the collective data identifies hunting as a substantial mortality factor in declining sage grouse populations.   At this time it is our understanding that hunting related sage grouse mortality is not having a major influence upon Montana sage grouse population dynamics.

MT BHA files Objection on Blackfoot Big Game and Roadless Amendments

Project Name:  Blackfoot Travel Plan FFEIS and Travel Plan Draft ROD

camping-backcountryProject Administrative Unit:  Helena National Forest

Lead Objector:  Greg Munther, Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Lead Objector:  Land Tawney, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Montana Chapter Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is an all volunteer organization comprised of Montana resident hunters and anglers who are dedicated to protecting and enhancing Montana’s public land wildlife and fisheries habitats, as well as fostering traditional non-motorized hunting and fishing opportunities for the present, as well as future generations.  Many of our members hunt and fish extensively within the public lands of the Helena National Forest.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is a national organization that seeks to ensure North America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters.

MT BHA files Objection on Blackfoot Travel Plan

elk-securityProject Administrative Unit:  Helena National Forest

Lead Objector:  Greg Munther, Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Lead Objector:  Land Tawney, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Rules associated with Objection are cited and discussed in each individual objection.

Montana Chapter Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is an all volunteer organization comprised of Montana resident hunters and anglers who are dedicated to protecting and enhancing Montana’s public land wildlife and fisheries habitats, as well as fostering traditional non-motorized hunting and fishing opportunities for the present, as well as future generations.  Many of our members hunt and fish extensively within the public lands of the Helena National Forest.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is a national organization that seeks to ensure North America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters.

Banning Drones for Hunting in Montana

                                                                                                May 9, 2013

To: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission

From: Montana Chapter, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

Issue:  Regulating Unmanned Aerial Vehicle  Systems (Drones) in Hunting

Background:

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems (commonly called  “drones”) are increasingly important in the military and have high potential to contribute to the fields of wildlife biology, search-and-rescue, agriculture and many other applications. However, in private hands there is small but growing interest in using these highly sophisticated remote-controlled aircraft to scout, monitor and stalk big game. BHA believes this technology represents a widespread opportunity for abuse, and if not regulated early poses a significant threat to fair chase hunting and fair distribution of hunting opportunity.

According to the UAVS Industry Association: “While military operations continue to dominate current UAS applications, the future will see increasing use of UAVs in parapublic and civil roles. It is important for the growth of the industry that paths to the civil market are opened as early as possible and UAVS takes very seriously the challenges of operating UAVs in the civil environment.”  According to an article in the New York Times, one company sells 7,000 civilian UAVs a year, more than the US military drone fleet. As one industry promoter predicted, “the sky is going to be black with these things.”

Montana BHA Scoping Comments on Lewiston Resource Management Plan

Greg-UplandBureau of Land Management

Lewistown Field Office

920 East Main St

Lewistown, MT 59457

The following serves as Scoping comments pertinent to the Lewistown Resource Management Plan (RMP) planning process.          

Montana Chapter Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is comprised of over 300 Montana sportsmen across the state who depend on management of public lands in Montana to support abundant fish and wildlife populations, as well as provide traditional, non-motorized hunting and fishing opportunities. The content and direction ultimately provided by the Lewistown Resource Management Plan (RMP) Revision will be critical to both the sustainable wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities.   

We request the following issues be addressed in the revision process through development and analysis of alternatives or specific management direction in the revised RMP.

Vegetation and Plant Community Health and Diversity

  1. Protection and restoration of woody draws.   These relatively uncommon plant community features are disproportionately used by wintering big game and are essential as wintering sharptail grouse habitat. Livestock grazing has led to reduction of this habitat feature or its health on the RMP landscapes. Plant components of this feature are in poor vigor and often lack sufficient regeneration. The RMP must resolve how this important vegetative component will be protected and restored.
  2. Protection and restoration of riparian areas.   These plant communities are disproportionately grazed by livestock and are often dramatically altered negatively as wildlife habitat. Most of the RMP hunted species depend substantially on riparian areas as habitat. Riparian areas comprise minor percentages of the RMP but are among the most abused from livestock grazing. The RMP must protect and restore all riparian areas. The RMP must resolve adverse effects of disproportionately heavy grazing occurring and the effects of that grazing on riparian vegetative health and vigor.
  3. Manage for vegetative health and diversity on upland sites.   Cattle grazing systems are commonly developed to, under the best of management, to improve the conditions of grasses as opposed to shrubs and forbs. The effect of these grass-oriented grazing systems is the reduction of shrubs and forbs important to wildlife as forage, cover, and nesting cover. Residual plant cover assures insect production and diversity as critical gamebird brood food source. We request the RMP address upland vegetative diversity and health through direction for grazing plan designs, monitoring and inventories.
  4. Ensure grazing and other uses do not facilitate noxious weed spread. Long term vegetative health and wildlife habitat is dependent on native plants that are dramatically adversely affected by invasions of noxious weeds. The RMP must prioritize vegetative health and preventing noxious weed spread higher than any other use that might facilitate noxious weed spread, including incompatible grazing and other surface disturbances such as road construction, oil and gas development, and native plant conversions .
  5. Protection of all sagebrush communities.   All sagebrush plant communities must have priority for protection. Any land uses must not further fragment, alter or lessen vigor and reproduction of sage communities. No uses should be permitted that contribute to fragmentation of sage communities.

    Get involved with Montana BHA's efforts to ensure public access to your public lands and to maintain high-quality non-motorized habitat.  Join BHA Today!

Comments on Grazing Plan for Robb Ledford Wildlife Management Area

32 Land TawneyMontana Fish and Game Commission:

Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, consisting of over 300 Montana sportsmen dependent on well managed public lands , are appreciative of prior efforts to acquire and manage Wildlife Management Areas.   Although there are often particular species identified for management emphasis in a WMA, a Wildlife Management Area needs to be responsive to the habitats of all wildlife and fish species.

The current Environmental Analysis for the Robb Ledford grazing allotment details conflicts with current grazing and riparian/fishery resources, to wit:.

From page 8 EA:

Rock Creek

“extensive livestock-caused alterations to stream banks kept the riparian in the non-functional category. In 2011, riparian assessments demonstrated that Rock Creek health remained stable and was barely functional. Heavy browsing and lack of establishment of preferred woody species were the most consistent driving factors (Thomson et al. 2011. E.).”

Comments on Arrastra Creek Grazing Allotment

John W Thompson, Acting Field Manager

8 lb prarie rainbow resizedMissoula Field Office

3255 Fort Missoula Road

Missoula, MT 59804

Re Arrastra Creek Allotment EA DOI-BLM-B010-2013-009-EA

Our 350 member organization is comprised of Montana hunters and anglers, many of whom hunt and fish in the Blackfoot drainage. Observations of livestock damage by our members were documented in our November, 2011 letter and photos to your office. We have reviewed the EA and have had phone conversations with your Range, fisheries and hydrologist specialists and have the following comments.

We found the EA to include a good discussion of the current fisheries, streambank and riparian vegetative conditions and past livestock damage.   We found the maps associated with big game and listed species ranges to be clear and readable. We are pleased that the BLM is assessing grazing on lands acquired through TNC, as well as previously publicly owned land in the Arrastra Creek drainage.

Unfortunately, the condition of this allotment is deplorable. Heavy grazing of virtually all the available palatable forage every year, season long has resulted in noxious weeds increasing, low vigor grasslands and water and riparian degradation.

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Backcountry Hunters & Anglers seeks to ensure North America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters.

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