July 21st, 2021
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Commissioners: Lesley Robinson, Brian Cebull, KC Walsh, Pat Byorth and Pat Tabor
Director: Hank Worsech
1420 East Sixth Avenue
Helena, MT 59620
Dear FWP Commissioners and Director Worsech:
The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is a non-profit conservation organization representing 3,000 dues-paying Montana-resident hunters and anglers. We love to hunt elk.
We are deeply concerned about FWP’s latest proposal to extend the Elk Shoulder Seasons (ESS) into January and February and onto public lands. This strikes us as a misguided move destined to backfire.
ESS were adopted in 2015 with the intent to reduce elk numbers and meet management objectives. It was to be implemented on private lands with the goal of redistributing elk to public lands, and to be done for three years. Now, however, in the program’s sixth year, FWP is proposing to expand ESS onto public lands. Clearly, something is not working -- and/or the original intent of ESS has changed.
Should the current ill-fated proposal be adopted, elk will die for the wrong reason, in the wrong location and during a time when we’d argue that they should not be hunted at all. In the interest of meeting the outdated goals set by select and narrow interests, we will be decimating our public land elk herds over the course of a six-month hunting season. Elk are quick to learn, and we will be hunting and killing elk that stay on public lands in winter, only to train the surviving elk to find refuge on inaccessible private lands. We will perpetuate the very problem we set out in 2015 to solve. To us, this makes little sense.
We cannot continue to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. We urge the Commission to look for alternative approaches such as the collaborative effort by the Devil’s Kitchen Working Group -- a shared effort among landowners, hunters, agencies and anyone interested to address local elk issues through science-based and consensus-driven solutions. We were absolutely delighted to see Lt. Governor Kristen Juras attend the latest meeting as an active participant. This forward-thinking engagement -- as opposed to rubber-stamping FWP’s proposals -- is what we expect from our decision-makers.
John B. Sullivan III, Board Chairman
Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers