We're in the thick of it now! September is here and with each bugle that raises the hairs on our arms, we're reminded why elk and elk hunting are so important to us. So with that, here's an update on all things elk in Montana:
1) Elk Recs Now Out for Comment
On September 15th, Montana FWP released for public comment the 15 elk-related recommendations developed by FWP's hand-selected Elk Management Citizen Advisory Group. The proposals range from 'Enforce Stricter Penalties for Trespassing...' to 'Choose Your Weapon/Season,' and many others. In our opinion, there are many good proposals here, though some need tweaking, and others miss the mark or are being considered prematurely. ICYMI, here are our thoughts on the Choose-Your-Weapon/Season proposal.
Montana BHA provided input on all of these proposals when the EMCAG was developing these recommendations - some of our input was acted on, some wasn't - and we'll be commenting again.
In the meantime, we encourage you to read the proposals and comment yourself. The deadline to comment is October 14th.
2) Intervenor status - GRANTED!
On August 31st, District Court Judge Heather Perry ruled in favor of our groups’ motion to intervene, acknowledging our standing in a lawsuit filed in May by the United Property Owners of Montana against Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Fish & Wildlife Commission.
“I am proud of the hard work we have done over the last year, engaging with the state, public hunters and landowners, in a sincere and transparent effort to solve these wildlife management issues,” said John Sullivan, chair of Montana BHA. “We're grateful the court has acknowledged the public’s role in wildlife management and allowed us to intervene on the public’s behalf. We look forward to making our case in front of the court and in the light of day for all to watch.”
But now we really need your help!
Learn more and support our efforts at KeepElkPublic.org.
3) Elk Management Plan & Objectives - How to comment in person, online or via Zoom
While you're hunting public lands this fall, ask yourself this: when's the last time you thought there were too many elk on public lands in Montana?
Well, it's now critical that you share that kind of feedback with FWP as they're collecting public comments on the statewide elk management plan.
"FWP is seeking input on the existing elk population objectives and local elk management challenges that should be considered in the update," their website states.
Generally speaking, Montana BHA is encouraging recent elk numbers to be factored into management objectives, we're asking that objectives be raised and, importantly, that FWP recognize and remember that multiple elk management tools exist already, and at some point, if large landowners are unwilling to use the tools at their disposal to manage elk, the elk objective numbers fail to serve any purpose; they become irrelevant. We want to make sure a biological carrying capacity is part of the goal here, not just social tolerance (though that should absolutely be part of this equation).
There are many in-person Region 2 meetings coming up, but hunters are also encouraged to share feedback online. While it's a cumbersome task filling out comments for multiple districts, we encourage you to consider this for each area you hunt (or want to hunt in the future). Additionally, on September 26th at 6pm, FWP is hosting a Zoom call so you can share your feedback that way if preferred, but you must register by noon on the 25th to do so.
Public comments are being accepted until October 15th, and you can email comments to [email protected] or submit online here.
4) A huge access project in the heart of elk country is nearing its final hurdle: the Montana Land Board.
During their October 17th meeting, we expect the Land Board to consider the proposed Big Snowy Wildlife Management Area acquisition by FWP that would forever conserve 5,677 acres and open and improve access to more than 100,000 acres of existing public lands.
Last month, the 7-member Fish & Wildlife Commission unanimously approved the project which sent it to the 5-member Land Board for final approval. During FWP's public comment period, more than 100 Montanans spoke up and 97% of them were in favor of this acquisition.
And now, all eyes are now on the Land Board for final approval. Please send them a quick and polite note asking them to support this acquisition. You can easily email your comments to [email protected].
5) Hunting season is also election season.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is a 501c3 and cannot and does not endorse candidates. That said, Montana BHA board member Corey Ellis recently penned an op-ed urging hunters to remember what happened last session. We encourage you to give it a read.
Montana BHA continues to stick up for equitable hunting opportunity, public access and wildlife habitat. We appreciate your support and ongoing participation.
- Montana BHA
Learn more about the Montana Chapter: