We've changed out our field tips and are tuning our broadheads. Archery elk season is just around the corner. Here's what we've been up to related to elk management, elk habitat and elk hunting.
1) Our board chair, John B. Sullivan III, recently penned an oped pushing back against some hollow complaints on elk management. The core of his argument? Tools don't work if folks don't use them. It's certainly worth a read.
2) Habitat Montana is one of the best conservation and access tools Montana has available. It uses license dollars to fund private land easements that protect open landscapes and allow landowners to keep their properties in the family. Our friend Andrew McKean highlights the popular program, the political threats to it, and what that means for Montana's landowning community as well as hunters in a way that makes the issue both deeply personal and at the same time broadly applicable to all who care about conservation and the 'cows not condos' ideology.
3) Yesterday, we experienced a win for elk country: the Land Board conditionally approved the 800-acre Willow Creek Acquisition to the Mount Haggin Wildlife Management Area near Anaconda. It passed 3-2 with Attorney General Knudsen and Superintendent Arntzen voting no.
"I don't think people are moving here from California from Oregon from Washington to live in high-rise apartments.” said Montana's AG Knudsen. “I think they'd probably like to have a piece of Montana, a little acreage, and a house… I never support these projects... I will not be supporting this."
AG Knudsen didn't hide it: he appears to care more about 30-acre ranchette subdivisions for folks moving here than he does the Montanans who want to see our lands spared from development and open to hunting, not to mention the private property rights of the current landowners. And he's 1/5 of the votes on the Land Board. That's concerning.
Thanks to Gov. Gianforte's leadership yesterday, plus yay votes from Commissioner Downing & Sec. Jacobsen, we eked out a win, but the 3-2 vote reinforced the need to show up and engage. The Big Snowy WMA acquisition is looming – that’s 5,677 acres in the heart of elk country. Stay tuned.
4) Speaking of the Big Snowy WMA, the next step in that process is the upcoming Fish & Wildlife Commission meeting, August 25th. We expect unanimous support for this project, but hunters showing up in force and expressing our strong support is more than welcomed. We strongly encourage you to browse the agenda, attend in person or register to comment online.
5) FWP continues its tour to elicit feedback on management objectives. There's a meeting in Bozeman TONIGHT among others.
Folks can also comment on individual district objectives online, so be sure to weigh in on each area you hunt (or want to hunt in the future!).
6) Block Management access guides and maps are now available for the 2022 big game season. Block Management is a voluntary program that provides equitable public access to private lands funded by hunters via license sales. In 2020, some 1,200 landowners participated and this year FWP expects "over 7 million acres of private and isolated public lands" to be opened thanks to this program.
We can't thank enough the landowners who've enrolled in this program.
As a reminder to all hunters, access to these private lands is a privilege that can be taken away from us; we must show the utmost respect for these properties, know - and follow - the rules, and thank participating landowners whenever we can. Bad behavior and poor ethics from hunters will lead landowners to disenroll from the program, something none of us want to see happen.
7) FWP's elk advisory group has finalized their recommendations and passed them onto the Governor and FWP for legal and financial review. Once buttoned up with a fiscal note attached, they’ll go out for public comment. Keep an eye out for ways to engage because while some of these proposals are solid, others will need some tweaking, and a few - like the proposal to pick a weapon/season - are likely to create controversy.
8) And finally, the day before the Commission meeting, the Private Land/Public Wildlife Advisory Committee (PL/PW) is meeting on August 24th in Great Falls. "The 13-member advisory committee, appointed by the governor, is charged with reviewing FWP’s access programs and offering recommendations to help achieve program goals and maintaining good relations between hunters and landowners," explains FWP.
At this meeting, the group is expected to discuss the 454 elk hunting access agreements, review Block Management payment structures, ways to improve hunter behavior and more. PL/PW meetings are streamed online. Public comment will be taken in person and via Zoom if you register by noon the day prior.
Montana BHA continues to stick up for equitable hunting opportunity, public access and wildlife habitat. We appreciate your support and ongoing participation.
- Montana BHA
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