These comments were delivered on June 22nd during the Fish & Wildlife Commission meeting in Helena, MT.
Madam Chair and members of the Commission, good morning, my name is Thomas Baumeister. I am the volunteer vice-chair of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.
Less than nine months ago we were all singing the same song – calling for a better process to manage the 454s. Look where we are today. The department listened and stepped up.
We now have a solid process in place, we have an application deadline, we have a way to manage demand, and we have accountability, transparency, communication, and public involvement. The director deserves much credit for championing this process. I believe this sets us up well to continue the effort of dialing in the 454s over time to get to a fully integrated landowner program.
Of course, we can continue to debate the merits of the 454s, and we should. We still want to see these timed with the general draw and the 10% cap to be part of the quota, not in addition to it, and for the 454s to be used as an effective tool to manage elk.
Yet here is what stands out today. Upon your endorsement, 37 landowners or their designees will find themselves with an elk tag in their pocket, there will be [more than 100] additional opportunities for the public to hunt private land, and there will be 37 places FWP can point to to demonstrate its commitment to actively managing elk on private land. Perhaps most importantly, and above all, these agreements amount to 37 opportunities for landowners, hunters, and biologists to talk to each other in ways they haven’t for a long time. Who knows what will come from this: new opportunities, new friendships, and new ways of working together.
We live in a great state where we have the right to voice our opinions, debate our differences, and even sue over elk management. Yet I can't help but call out that facilitating communication among diverse stakeholders – in the way the 454s have the potential to do – is the only proven way of ever getting anything done in this state and this is what we ought to do more of. Thank you.