The following is an introduction to the full scope of comments that Montana Backcountry Hunters & Anglers recently submitted to the Helena National Forest in partnership with the Montana Wildlife Federation in regards to the Blackfoot Travel Management Plan & Big Game Security Amendment.
Dear Forest Supervisor Kevin Riordan:
The following comments are submitted in response to the Helena National Forest proposed Big Game Security Amendment (Big Game Standard 4a). We request these comments be entered into the public record, and each of our comments be individually analyzed and addressed in the subsequent analysis and NEPA process.
Montana Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (MT BHA)and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), and Montana Wildlife Federation (MWF) offer the following comments to implementation of an unvalidated and scientifically unsupported proposed amendment to Helena Forest Plan Standard 4a for Big Game Security (Appendix F). The proposal would potentially damage big game security on Elk Herd Units that do entirely fall within the Administrative Boundary of the Helena National Forest by allowing degradation of forest cover well below 30% of an EMU. In addition, all necessary criteria of the model that is being proposed to amend Standard 4a are not described in the proposed amendment and therefore are not assured of being applied...
The following is a summary of legislation that MT BHA has been working on as of 3/18/13.
The 2013 Montana Legislative Session is almost 2/3 completed and with it there have been a number of bills that have the potential to positively or negatively impact the future of hunting and fishing in the state. The MT Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers has been keeping tabs on bills that could affect the following issues:
As we are a bi-partisan group of hunters and anglers, we tried to focus on issues where consensus exists among our membership. We find broad consensus when we focus our efforts on habitat, access and hunting and angling opportunities. We have notified our members of upcoming bills and MT BHA assessment of how these bills affect fish or wildlife habitats as well as sportsment opportunities.
The following is a list of bills we have been watching and where possible MT BHA has provided input and guidance to legislative committees and their members:
Non-Resident Licenses and Wilderness
HB 161: Non-Resident Wilderness Licenses. The bill would have provided for an additional 10,000 non-resident hunting licenses in wilderness areas only. MT BHA believes this issue should be addressed through science and the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission process – not by using Forest Service administrative boundaries and politics. This legislation wouldn’t have just affected hunting opportunities in the Bob Marshall or the Beartooths, but also very small wilderness areas such as Welcome Creek, Red Rocks and UL Bend. This bill was tabled in the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee by the sponsor.
SB 380: Non-Resident Wilderness Licenses. Similar in nature to HB 161, this bill would provide for 1,500 nonresident big game combination licenses solely for us in wilderness areas. Again, in Montana, we have a proven method of distributing licenses and tags. MT FWP and our Fish and Game Commission set harvest rates according to population objectives and game surveys, not Forest Service boundaries. This bill would set a bad precedent and injects politics into what should be a decision based on sound science and the role of the Fish and Game Commission.
As with HB 161, it is important to note that this legislation wouldn’t just affect hunting opportunities in the Bob Marshall or the Beartooths. It would include wilderness areas like the Anaconda Pintlar, the Cabinets and the smaller areas like Welcome Creek, Red Rocks and UL Bend. At the time this summary was completed, the bill was awaiting executive action by the Senate Fish and Game Committee.
The following is an article about BHA's efforts to address decisions impacting "security habitat" management for elk in Montana, original article available here.
A statewide hunting group is asking Helena National Forest officials to not make any changes to elk security standards until they begin a new open, public process that includes more involvement of state biologists, outside peer review of any proposed changes and more information on what’s being considered.
Greg Munther, chairman of The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and a former district ranger on the Lolo National Forest, said his organization is concerned that changes being developed for the elk security standards on the Lincoln and Helena ranger districts will actually make elk feel less secure and push them onto private lands.
“I’m a dedicated elk hunter and very concerned about the proposal that’s yet undescribed by the Helena National Forest to change the elk security standards,” Munther said on Tuesday. “We want to make sure they are aware of the implications of what they’re doing.”
by Greg Munther, Nov 11, 2012
To: Kevin Riordan
Forest Supervisor, Helena National Forest
2880 Skyway Drive
Helena Montana 59601
Amber Kamps, District Ranger
Lincoln Ranger District
Lincoln, MT 59804
The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is composed of Montana hunters and anglers who value and seek quality big game habitat and traditional non-motorized hunting and fishing opportunities. Many of our members both hunt and fish on the Helena National Forest, particularly hunting for elk.
As you are aware, the Helena has some quality backcountry such as the Scapegoat and parts of the Elkhorn mountains. However, most of the few remaining secure, undeveloped parts of the Helena are unroaded simply because they are overly steep, rocky and otherwise unproductive for both timber and elk. Studies of elk habitat selection document that elk, like people, select for gentler terrain and spend little time on terrain over 30% slopes. However, much of the lower, gentler, and often most productive elk habitats of the Helena have been roaded, have been laced by ORV routes, or both. In the last 25 years the problem has been exacerbated by a proliferation of off road vehicle routes, both authorized and unauthorized renegade routes. In addition the frequent and extensive violations of existing motorized restrictions render much of the Helena’s most productive elk habitats seriously compromised, particularly as they need to serve as secure habitats during the hunting seasons.
To: Mary C. Erickson
Forest Supervisor, Gallatin National Forest
10 E. Babcock Avenue, Box 130
Bozeman, MT, 59771-0130
Dear Supervisor Erickson,
We write on behalf of our organization, Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, in support of the ongoing preservation of the roadless and wilderness-quality lands of the Gallatin Range. We also support the continued management of the Gallatin Range’s Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area as wilderness until Congress makes a decision as to the future of these lands. We understand that the Gallatin National Forest will be revising its travel plan for the WSA in the coming months, and we strongly urge you to consider managing this area for its quiet, backcountry, roadless values.
April 21, 2012 Choteau MT
My name is Greg Munther and I am the Chairman of Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
Some hunters and anglers are happy shooting a deer from their pickup in an alfalfa field. Some fisherman are happy catching newly planted trout from a pond.
But Backcountry Hunters and Anglers are different. For us backcountry folks, our love of the Front means getting deep inside it. The most pristine parts of the Front are the attraction to us and further back is better.
For us, the Backcountry Experience is as important or more important than the filling a tag or a creel full of trout.
We like to sweat, climb a ridge or wade a stream until we are fall-down tired. The harder it is the better we like it.
Montana hunters and anglers are sending a clear message: Keep the Rocky Mountain Front open for hunting and angling for the next generation. The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act was built by ranchers, hunters and conservationists working together. It's Made in Montana, and it's right for Montana.
MT BHA sent the following letter regarding the Kootenai Forest Travel Management Plan:
Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers represents hunters and anglers concerned with perpetuating big wild wildlife and fish habitats and the traditional non-motorized hunting and fishing opportunities. Many of our members reside near the Kootenai Forest and many others travel to the Kootenai for their hunting and fishing outings.
Theodore Roosevelt hunted in the Kootenai as a young man and his experiences there help convince him to protect it for the public good when he was president in 1908. The Kootenai National Forest has changed greatly since 1908, mostly because of extensive road building and industrial-scale timber harvest. While BHA supports sustainable timber harvest, we believe the Forest Service needs to do more to protect and restore the values that inspired Roosevelt in the first place and better meet his standard of “greatest good for the greatest number, over the long term.”
Few national forests today have the vast sweep of native big game that can be found in a single day’s hunting on the Kootenai. The Kootenai is a rare place where a everyday, blue collar hunter can buy an over-the-counter license, hunt 11 weeks with bow and rifle, and have a very real chance of harvesting a mature, trophy elk and/or mule deer. The Kootenai Forest Plan must make sure this opportunity remains intact for future generations.
Our members are particularly concerned about habitat security for both elk and mule deer, both of which are sensitive to and vulnerable to motorized use. In addition, motorized routes makes these species more vulnerable to hunting, and diminishes the traditional hunting experiences. Vast, peer-reviewed research, much conducted by the Forest Service, has long demonstrated the adverse effects of motorized use on these species.
Much of the most productive Kootenai lands have been heavily roaded, and Wilderness designation has been mostly “rocks and ice” which are far less productive to fish and wildlife of most species. We request all remaining roadless areas be managed to protect their roadless character. We request that the management emphasis of roadless lands be primarily free of motors, although we do acknowledge some popular motorized routes will remain. Motorized routes result in dissecting large blocks of wildlife security and greatly diminish traditional non-motorized hunting and fishing opportunities and experiences. We do request that Plan direction be to refrain from adding or legitimizing motorized routes in roadless areas.
At Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, we work to protect many special places where our members hunt and fish in North America. We have kept illegal motorbikes and illegal helicopter-outfitting out of the Rocky Mountain Front and Badger-Two Medicine region of Montana. Please enjoy these member photos of this Sportsmen's Paradise and visit www.savethefront.org and learn more about the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act.