Here's a quick(ish) recap of what Montana BHA was able to accomplish in 2023, and what's on our minds as we head into the new year:
Every other year, Montana’s legislature is in session for a fast and furious 90 days. 2023 was one of those years. There were a whopping 1,698 bills introduced, and of those, Montana BHA went on the record and influenced more than 50 pieces of legislation. One of these bills, HB 486, was led by Montana BHA, and increased the fine for illegally gating a public road from $10/day to $100/day - a big win for public land owners!
Additionally, we advocated for things like conservation funding, for improvements to public access programs, for further restrictions on using drones for hunting and scouting, for habitat improvements instead of pen-raised pheasant stocking, and for all users of our public lands and waters to pay their share for upkeep and acquisitions, instead of just hunters and anglers footing the bill.
But perhaps even more of our energy was spent pushing back against bad ideas to pollute our rivers, to privatize our wildlife, to weaken environmental standards, and to generally make conservation and public access harder to come by in Montana.
In total, we mobilized 4,127 individual sportsmen and women who sent 30,394 customized letters to our representatives and senators on issues impacting our wild public lands, waters and wildlife, and we truly made a difference.
Outside of the session…
We helped advocate for multiple land acquisitions and conservation easements, including a riverfront parcel along the Lower Yellowstone, some great elk habitat in both the Big Hole Valley and near Lewistown, important riparian areas near Deer Lodge, and some valuable timberland in NW Montana.
We cheered the advancement of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, and remain committed to helping this legislation advance to the President’s desk.
We advocated for a ‘habitat-first’ strategy in Fish Creek, with an emphasis on quiet recreation and opportunities to hunt and fish.
We defended against attacks on federal conservation funding (the Land & Water Conservation Fund).
We remain in a legal fight to defend Montana’s elk hunting heritage.
We applauded the agreement to retire the final remaining leases in the Badger-Two Medicine.
We continue to defend public access in the Crazy Mountains, in the courtroom, administratively and with grassroots advocacy.
We celebrated the reintroduction of the Montana Headwaters Legacy Act, which seeks to protect our wild, undammed rivers.
We pushed back on efforts to triple the amount of commercial use on our public lands.
We supported efforts to better understand barriers and fund solutions for wildlife crossings.
We sounded the alarm on a proposed ballot initiative that would privatize our wildlife, threaten tribal sovereignty, and put at risk privileges to fish and hunt upland birds on reservation lands.
We helped return the funding for hunters safety in our schools.
We advocated for a new conservation area and funding model in SW Montana, and supported a new way for the BLM to look at and value conservation efforts on our public lands.
And, finally, we spoke up at each Fish & Wildlife Commission meeting advocating for the equitable allocation of our publicly owned resource, for fair-chase, and for science-based decision-making.
And we couldn’t have done any of this without your support!
Stewardship and Community Building Efforts
Our members crave boots-on-the-ground work that helps give back to the lands and waters they love. Montana BHA participated in more than ten public and private lands and waters volunteer work events including the following:
- Brushed, cleared, fixed water bars, and improved tread on nearly 20 miles of trail in the Flathead and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forests through 3 projects: Trail Fork Bear Creek, Carpp Lake, and Sylvia Lake.
- Inventoried beaver dams to help guide future management of the Gold Creek watershed.
- Removed 3 miles of fence to improve wildlife movement in migration corridors in SW Montana, Eastern Montana, and Missoula.
- Cleaned up 800 pounds of trash at our 3rd annual Logan shooting area clean up.
- Helped remove or improve almost three miles of fence, build a parking area, move the boundary gate and sign, and treat 60 acres of cheatgrass at the Mt. Haggin Wildlife Management Area.
- Attended Rendezvous in Missoula and helped host the Backcountry Brewfest
- Hosted a women's backpacking trip into an alpine lake in the Pioneer Mountains
- Held our 2nd annual General Season Send Off at Sitka Depot in Bozeman with Gastrognome Meals, Genuine Ice Cream, and our favorite chef Jaime Teigen
- Jammed in Lewistown at our Beers, Bands and Public Lands party
- Co-hosted two gatherings: the Rally for Public Lands and Elk Camp at the Capitol
- Cheers’d beers and had a blast at pint nights in Billings, Helena, Three Forks, and Kalispell
- Celebrated the opening of the Jim Posewitz fishing access site
Statewide Mule Deer License
This year, Montana BHA was awarded the privilege of raising money for mule deer conservation and habitat by being awarded the statewide mule deer license. Rather than auction the tag to the highest bidder, we wanted to see this chance-of-a-lifetime be raffled off equitably so everyone can support this work and be entered to win. Get your name in the hat for just $20!
Photo by Tony Bynum
Recipe from the Backcountry
Gallatin Valley Board Member, Caleb Teigen, cooked up some Rabbit and Pheasant Curry after a recent hunting trip. Check out his recipe here!
Save the Date: 2024 North American Rendezvous
Rendezvous is moving to Minneapolis next year! Join us April 18-20, 2024 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for a celebration like no other.
Time to Renew!
Renew or join before the end of the year and be entered to win a mystery bundle with $2,500 worth of gear! Your membership dues help us keep public lands and waters public, accessible and with healthy habitat to sustain our fair-chase hunting and fishing heritage. If you need to check your membership status, head to your member portal!
From all of us at Montana BHA, we’d like to offer a sincere thank you for your continued support and advocacy on behalf of our wild public lands, waters and wildlife. We wish you a safe and enjoyable holiday season.