2021 was a year of action.
From the halls of the state capitol to the sagebrush steppe in southwest Montana, all the way from the remote trails of the Bob Marshall Wilderness to the comfort of our own homes, sitting behind a computer screen participating in Commission meetings, Montana BHA'ers made our presence known.
Here's a quick recap, by the numbers, of what Montana BHA was able to accomplish in 2021:
- engaged in 30+ bills during the Montana legislative session while enabling 2,570 resident sportsmen and women to send 57,942 letters to our state's elected officials asking them to consider the voices of hunters and anglers
- participated in more than ten public and private lands clean up events
- published dozens of opeds and letters expressing our concerns or support on legislation, proposals, actions or inactions of our decision makers
- pulled a couple miles of fencing to improve wildlife migrations, particularly for pronghorn, in Horse Prairie
- sent letters of support for dozens of land acquisitions, for native fishery restoration efforts, for grazing and haying relief for our neighbors enrolled in block management, for attempts to create a cold-water fisheries task force and more
- removed more than 500 pounds of trash from Flathead Valley rivers
- rewarded a Montana BHA member with $500 for reporting information that led to a conviction of blatant and damaging illegal OHV use
- cleared more than 3 miles of trail and removed invasive thistle in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, plus another 3 miles of trail in the Sapphires
- spent a weekend in the proposed Great Burn wilderness area and removed some 300lbs of invasive knapweed
- cheered the reintroduction of two pieces of legislation sponsored by Sen. Tester: the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, which would protect 80,000 acres of new wilderness, and the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act, which would designate 387 miles of Montana's rivers as Wild & Scenic
- helped remove a half mile of fencing from Missoula's Mount Jumbo to improve winter wildlife habitat
- applauded the reintroduction of the MAPLand ACT, co-sponsored by Sen. Daines & Sen. Tester, which would uncover existing access easements and help identify where future public access opportunities exist
- assisted in the removal of 1,400 pounds of rusted metal from a future FAS on the Bitterroot River
- sent a total of 3,031 letters to our federal delegation on issues impacting our wild public lands and waters, access to them and quality fish and wildlife habitat when we get there
- guided students in stewardship, conservation history and fair-chase hunting and fishing practices while creating future advocates for our wild places through our collegiate program and clubs at both UM & MSU
- connected with active duty and veteran service members, encouraging them to take dynamic roles as public land advocates while providing a constructive outlet for current or transitioning service members to continue selfless service while enjoying the camaraderie of likeminded individuals and solace of wild public lands through BHA's Armed Force Initiative
- And more! View even more accomplishments from Montana BHA and other Chapters at BHA's New North America Action Map
More from Q4 and Ways to Take Action
As you can tell, it's been a busy year, and we're not slowing up now just because we have a new calendar to look at. Here's a look at pressing issues we're facing now, as well as a few quick hits on what we've been up to this fall.
In December, we cohosted a sheep count with FWP and the Montana Wild Sheep Foundation in the Highland Mountains. Sadly, one sheep that wasn't counted was this ram, poached by a Deer Lodge man.
In October, we advocated for the Recovering America's Wildlife Act at a pint night in Missoula. Our good friends at Highlander Beer provided the refreshments while Burch Barrel cooked up some delicious wild game sliders.
Before the holiday break, we helped stoke 'a firestorm' of public comment that ultimately led to FWP pulling back on some egregious elk hunting proposals that would have further privatized Montana's elk herds. The bad news, however, is that the alternative proposals that have taken shape since are no better, perhaps even worse. Learn more about the elk proposals and provide comments here.
In addition to threats to elk hunting, Montana faces some significant chances to our hunting districts, season lengths, weapons restrictions and more. For example, there's a proposal to eliminate fall turkey hunting in Region 4; there's a proposal to extend upland bird hunting another month, with no biological reasoning or stated landowner support; there's a proposal to hack off two weeks of many mule deer hunting seasons in Western Montana; and many, many more. We encourage you to review the proposals and take action here. The comment deadline of January 21st is fast approaching. And while it's FWP that needs to hear from you, please share any of your concerns with us by emailing the Chapter.
Coming up, we have an important court hearing in Billings on January 18th regarding our attempts to preserve and protect public access in the Crazy Mountains. Stay tuned for the decision and what that means for public land owners.
We're looking forward to springing back into in-person event action; we're just as anxious to shake hands and high five as you are.
In the meantime, Montana BHA is offering a membership incentive right now for any new or renewing Montanan. Join and get a 1-in-100 chance of winning a Yeti Hopper Backflip 24; we've already sold 67 of these, so only 33 more to go before we draw!
Recipe from the Backcountry
Montana BHA Board Member Dane Rider shares this seasonally appropriate wild game recipe - Venison Chile Verde! Read the recipe here and try it for yourself!
Please continue to engage with us on social and share your pics from the field (or the kitchen!) with us! Tag @montanabha on Instagram and use hashtag #MontanaBHA to be featured!
Happy new year from all of us at Montana BHA, and thank you for your continued support for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.