April 5th, 2023
Governor Greg Gianforte
1301 E. Sixth Ave.
Helena, MT 59601
RE: Montana Citizen Elk Management Coalition members and sporting groups request veto of HB 635
Respectfully, the undersigned groups, collectively representing thousands of Montana sportsmen and women, are writing to request a veto of HB 635.
In general, we agree with the rest of the Montana Citizen's Elk Management Coalition (MCEMC) legislative package. In fact, we appreciate the effort put forth by the Coalition partners in trying to work constructively towards solutions that “improve relations with landowners, outfitters, guides, farmers, and ranchers while ensuring that wildlife remains in the public trust and management remains equitable.” This represents a significant challenge but is something that Montanans have a history of accomplishing. However, we disagree with HB 635. It is not a consensus bill and does not reflect the goals of the MCEMC outlined above.
In Montana, wildlife is managed by the State, and held in trust for the benefit of all citizens. The rights to Montana’s game animals do not come with the deed to a private parcel, even if it’s 2,500 acres.
HB 635 offers no meaningful public access incentives nor a real solution to public land hunting pressure. Yet it comes with great risks to our Montana hunting heritage, violates some of the main tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, and threatens the traditions and values held by our great State.
Proponents of this bill are claiming it will reduce public land crowding, but we believe the number of hunters who might move from public land to private land is negligible. Surely, there are better and more equitable ways to address nonresident hunting pressure, ones that wouldn’t come with the consequences of HB 635.
Furthermore, since the proposed 2,550 licenses (15%) will likely be undersubscribed, there could easily be pressure for the State to give even more licenses to these nonresident landowners. We fear that renewed pressure for transferable licenses will not be far behind.
Respectfully, we ask that you send a clear message to Montanans that you care about our wishes more than the interests of large, out-of-state landowners; please veto this bill. Doing so would allow all the stakeholders present in the Montana Citizen's Elk Management Coalition - including many of the undersigned groups - an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and present a true consensus solution for consideration. But this bill - alone or part of a broader package - is not something you should support.
Thank you for your careful consideration.
Nick Siebrasse, President - Bearpaw Bowmen
Garrett Sereday, President - Bridger Bowmen
Gary Ingman, Vice President - Helena Hunters and Anglers
Walker Conyngham, President – Hellgate Hunters and Anglers
John B. Sullivan III, Board Chair - Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
Andrew Posewitz, Founder - Montana Public Trust Coalition
Jeff Herbert, Leadership Group - Montana Sportsmen Alliance
Bill Bryce, President - Park County Rod & Gun Club
Robert Wood, Legislative Chairman – Ravalli County Fish & Wildlife Association
Bill Siebrasse, President - Traditional Bowhunters of Montana
Michael Freeman, Governor Gianforte's Natural Resources Policy Advisor