On March 22, the Environmental Quality Council (EQC) will meet to discuss the Contractual Public Elk Hunting Access Agreements, commonly knows as '454 agreements.'
Made infamous last fall by wealthy, out-of-state landowners like the Texas-based Wilks Brothers, recent changes to the 454 program have left a bad taste in Montana hunters' mouths.
Now is our chance to fix them.
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Avgeris
1:30pm, Tuesday, March 22nd
Room 137, the Capitol in Helena
Montana BHA's Jake Schwaller recently published an oped on the issue, detailing how we got here, why the current program is so contentious and what we can do to fix it.
Here are some of our recommendations:
1) Use 454s as intended, as elk management tools, with an emphasis on management. Local biologists and wildlife managers should be the ones driving these agreements only in areas with elk management and distribution issues, and then working with willing landowners in those districts to finalize. Removing Helena staff from the process will diminish appearances of political influence.
2) FWP should increase the ratio and return to selecting all public hunters, not just 2/3 of them, and not just the cow hunters; landowners should retain the right to refuse hunters based on past experiences. Hunters must be allowed access during the general seasons. If landowners need increased cow harvest during the shoulder seasons, those opportunities are now widely available (often unlimited), not to mention the hunt roster damage hunts at at their disposal as well.
3) Permits should be limited to only the landowner, immediate family or full-time employee of agricultural operation who lives in Montana. These permits must never be transferable or salable.
4) Currently, landowner permits top out at 15% of total permits available in limited-quota districts; these 454s are an unlimited addition to that. There needs to be a participation cap and approvals need to be timed with the existing landowner permit allocations and draws.
5) Detailed and mandatory harvest reporting must be a requirement to participate to ensure the agreements are working.
Make Your Voice Heard!
We encourage you to take these talking points and pull from your own experiences and thoughts to craft your own comments. EQC, the interim committee made up of 17 members and responsible for providing legislative oversight to Fish, Wildlife and Parks, is reviewing these agreements and welcomes your feedback and participation. Comments can be delivered in many ways:
a) deliver your comments in person in Helena on March 22nd, 1:30pm in the Capitol Room 137
b) provide comments via Zoom; you must register here by 5pm on Monday the 21st.
c) send your comments electronically to EQC members; submit them here.
Thank you for speaking up for fair and equitable elk hunting opportunities.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us.