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.
Sage grouse hunting is culturally important and a true Montana tradition. From experience, we know that re-initiating a hunting season once it has been closed will be politically difficult and likely not to occur. Hunters, including our members, are important advocates for sage grouse and its habitat that will lose some interest in the species if there is no hunting season. Therefore, we request that each of Montana’s sage grouse populations be treated based upon the population condition of their management subunit. We also request that you considering less severe options, such as a reduction in season length or bag limits, rather than a blanket state-wide season-long closure.
Research has provided substantial data documenting the long-term adverse effects of human actions such as habitat fragmentation, cultivated agriculture, oil and gas development and mismanaged grazing upon sage grouse populations. Thus, our organization would advocate for a more critical eye toward these major factors influencing sage grouse populations versus the limited impact of hunting.
Greg L Munther, Co-Chairman
Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers