Places to safely recreate, to provide food for your family or to find much needed peace of mind – never have these wild places been more appreciated and valued than in 2020.
And never has BHA's mission of ensuring North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting been more justified than it was this last year.
To that end, while our plans of attack changed drastically in 2020, we still got to work in Montana. Here’s an end-of-the-year recap and what we’re looking at as we welcome 2021.
It was a big year for conservation policy and action.
At the federal level, the Great American Outdoors Act took the cake. Permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund with 3 percent being dedicated to securing hunting and fishing access opportunities on our public lands and waters, the GAOA was a ginormous win for hunters and anglers. Additionally, while not yet signed into law, the MAPLand Act and the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act continued to gain momentum, as did the recently introduced Montana Headwaters Legacy Act. We hope to see these become law in 2021 so more wild places can remain so.
In January, we kicked the year off with some great news as our efforts to thwart a petition that would have allowed hovercrafts on the Bitterroot and Clark Forks rivers was denied.
This spring, we generated support for keeping the Great Burn Recommended Wilderness area wild and for balancing outdoor recreation and critical big game habitat in the Custer Gallatin National Forest; we honored Region 7 participants enrolled in FWP’s Block Management Program and we supported numerous proposals to protect habitat and improve public access across the state.
During the summer, we rewarded the Montana hunters who reported the illegal motorized (helicopter!) use in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, we cheered along with the Blackfeet Nation while taking steps to protect the Badger II Medicine and we continued to push against proposals to classify e-bikes as non-motorized vehicles on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Recently, we supported FWP's attempts to ban the use of drones in fishing, citing fair chase concerns. Then, our organized opposition to portions of a proposed land swap in the Crazy Mountains paid off when the U.S. Forest Service ultimately amended the planned course of action in December; the already accessible public sections of the proposal with great elk habitat will remain in public hands, for now. And speaking of public lands, we were happy to see that two BHA-supported FWP acquisitions on Flathead Lake were unanimously approved by the bipartisan Montana State Land Board just last week.
Our policy focus now pivots to the 67th Montana Legislature, set to convene on January 4, 2021. We anticipate an onslaught of bills that will undermine the opportunity for the average person to hunt and fish in Montana, either by attacking public access and habitat conservation or by assaulting the principles of wildlife and fish as public trust resources. With the help of our hired government relations specialist, we plan to stick up for the interests of public land owners. But we won’t succeed without your help. Be sure to stay tuned and be ready to take action. It'll be an all-hands-on-deck type of session.
Keeping a safe distance, we also got our hands dirty this year, then hit ‘em with sanitizer.
We pulled fences on a property enrolled in Block Management; cleaned up fishing access sites on a number of Montana’s rivers; not only replaced damages done by vandalism on private lands open to public hunting and fishing, but we left the property better than before; and we picked up loads of rubbish from public lands throughout the month of September. We offered rewards for information leading to the conviction of the above-mentioned vandalism and for a moose poaching case near Lewistown as well.
And we couldn’t have done any of it without you.
The accomplishments of the Montana Chapter of BHA are all thanks to its engaged membership and active chapter leadership. We are truly indebted to the dedication and skills of Greg Munther, Matt Rinella and Austin Rogers, who retired from the board in 2020. We welcome and look forward to working with new board members Scott Desena, Bill Spahr, Paul Kemper, Scott Mylnechuk, Chris McCarthy, Jake Schwaller and Corey Ellis who’ll officially take the reins in 2021.
Most importantly, as this year draws to a close, we want to thank you – the hard-working, passionate and engaged members and supporters of Montana BHA for your continued support. This Chapter is what you make it, and even without the perks of the fun in-person events, you stood behind us through this strange and tumultuous year, and for that we are grateful.
As we embark on a new year, we are confident we will make lasting and impactful changes in the world of conservation with your continued support. We sincerely ask that you officially join us (or renew) if you haven’t already.
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