We've been busy shooting our bows, hitting the rifle range, doing some preseason scouting and watching our freezers empty one package of elk steaks at a time. Elk are on the mind, and we're not the only ones.
There's a lot going on with elk management in Montana right now. Below is a quick rundown.
1) Elk hunting and all wildlife management in Montana is under attack. Earlier this month, Montana BHA and other in-state hunting and access groups formally filed to intervene to oppose the lawsuit filed recently by the United Property Owners of Montana (UPOM) against Montana FWP and the Fish & Wildlife Commission. Their lawsuit is a direct attack on wildlife management, our Montana hunting traditions, as well as public participation in decision-making. This is serious stuff. We've created an FAQs page where folks can learn more.
2) The Game Damage Hunt Roster is now open. This is yet another targeted and equitable tool for landowners to deal with legitimate elk concentration issues. That said, we ask hunters to please remember that this is a harvest tool and landowners rely on those who sign up to follow through; please only sign up if you can be counted on to show up, to be respectful, and to be effective. Taking that responsibility seriously by showing up and harvesting some elk is what this program needs and this is how we, as public hunters, can be counted on to step up and do our part. Thank you.
3) Montana FWP is once again asking for feedback on elk management. FWP will be traveling the state and hosting public meetings "to gather ideas about local elk management issues and population objectives." We encourage elk hunters to show up and share your concerns and your ideas. Montana BHA will again be stressing the need for improved hunter/landowner relations, but also for updated elk management objectives and a revised elk management plan, access solutions, aggressive cow harvests in areas with elk concentration issues and, above all, to keep elk a publicly owned resource and to prevent efforts to privatize and commercialize our wildlife. Management solutions must be equitable and balanced. For a full list of these meetings and ways to provide comments online, click here. The first meetings start June 20th.
4) FWP's elk management advisory group is meeting on June 21st. Montana BHA, as a member of the larger sounding board, has assisted by routinely providing comments and insights to members of this group. We have good lines of communications with some members and appreciate what they are doing. This meeting will be streamed online. You can register to provide comments virtually, but you must register by noon on June 20th. Learn more here.
5) FWP’s license drawing has been one blunder after the other, so pay close attention and double check the validity of your - and your friends’ and family’s - permits. After FWP had to grant up to 10% more elk permits due to a technical error during the draw, they’re now acknowledging that they sent an additional 1,200 elk and deer combo tags to unsuccessful non-resident applicants, for free. They’re asking that hunters return these licenses voluntarily. There have also been a number of archery-only permit holders noticing that the dates printed on their permits extend from the opener of archery through the end of the rifle season; this too was a mistake that FWP has yet to correct. Please review FWP’s regulations for valid season dates of your permit.
6) The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission's next meeting is June 22nd. One of the agenda items is to approve a 300% increase in requests for landowner bull permits as part of the expanded 454 program. We do appreciate FWP’s efforts earlier to put some structure on this program, but more work is needed to ensure that private interests do not outweigh the public’s. To learn more, offer comments or participate in person or remotely, click here.
The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers continues to work in the trenches defending what belongs to us all. We appreciate your support and ongoing participation on issues related to our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.
- Montana BHA
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