Montana Property Owners File Lawsuit to Force FWP to “Remove, Harvest, or Eliminate Thousands of Elk”

lawsuit filed in April by a group of Montana property owners accuses wildlife officials of breaking a state law that requires elk populations to be maintained at sustainable levels, squandering “our prized natural resource [and] turning the regal elk into a common nuisance, like locusts or grasshoppers.” The lawsuit asks a judge to void current elk regulations and to give the defendants—the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP)—90 days to develop a plan to “remove, harvest, or eliminate thousands of elk” as quickly as possible. 

The lawsuit is the latest salvo in a long-running battle over elk management in the state, which has led to disagreement even among state wildlife officials. Earlier this year, the Fish and Wildlife Commission rejected a recommendation by FWP to allow general license hunting on private land in several parts of the state. In public comments leading up to a February decision to institute big changes in Montana’s elk and deer seasons this fall, hunters, outfitters, and landowners called on the commission to reject the proposed changes—albeit all for different reasons.

The recent lawsuit was filed in Fergus district court by United Property Owners of Montana. The plaintiffs are accusing the commission and FWP of allowing the elk population to grow to 50,000 animals above management objectives called for by state law. 

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