This story is excerpted from MT Lowdowna weekly newsletter that offers a more personal side to the Montana Free Press reporting.
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks last week released a list of 12-member proposals Citizen deer management advisory groupwhich was tasked with bringing “new eyes” to Issues surrounding elk management. The FWP staff rated both 15 suggestions To gain insight into implementation, funding requirements, and any inconsistencies – legal or otherwise – that might be inspired if implemented.
One potentially controversial recommendation is “Choose Your Weapon/Season”. It aims to reduce congestion by reducing the number of hunters in the field at any time. If implemented, it would require hunters to decide to hunt during rifle season or shooting season, but not both. The FWP’s enforcement department noted that “it is potentially very unpopular with the public and may lead to additional ‘opportunist’ type violations.”
Another potentially pot-moving recommendation is titled “We have to manage elk where they don’t exist,” and aims to tackle the lower numbers of elk in northwest Montana by engaging in more aggressive management of predators. The FWP is required to reduce the numbers of wolves and black bears by expanding the seasons in which they can be hunted and consider using activities such as aerial hunting for wolves in areas where elk are below population targets.
The group also recommended that the FWP develop a cattle-only tag for hunters who follow their quarry on private land. It will be introduced in areas where elk exceed population targets. FWP staff raised concerns that it would confuse fishermen by countering management efforts to streamline and streamline regulations, and noted that access to private property, not access to tags, is the problem that needs to be resolved.
When Henry “Hank” Worsech took the helm of the FWP, Governor Greg Gianforte tasked him with finding a new approach to balance landowners’ interests with hunter opportunities. In the wake of Worsech’s attempt to change the status quo, the department has been pushed into a lawsuit while the hunters organize themselves in anticipation of the 2023 legislative session.
A recommendation focused on “damage searches” would allow landowners to opt out of a list of resident hunters they trust to quickly address forage loss concerns. The group also recommended that the FWP develop an educational course focused on landowner relations and fisher ethics to address some of the concerns expressed by landowners about opening their property to the hunting public. After completing the course, participants will be able to expand access to hunting on the property of willing landowners.
Proposals that are likely to generate little controversy include efforts to develop user-friendly methods of data collection, create a liaison position for landowners to work with the FWP, encourage collaboration between state and federal land managers, and create local elk working groups where possible.
Implement all 15 recommendations may need An additional 17.5 full-time equivalent employees and $12.4 million in state special revenue in fiscal year 2024, and $9.7 million annually thereafter, plus about $400,000 in federal special revenue each year. FWP employees expect Focused Game Damage Marks to generate approximately $55,000 in revenue each year.
More than three quarters of the total price will go towards conducting an in-depth course. In addition to the online lessons, participants are expected to complete a shooting component and a field course.
The department will accept comments on the group’s proposals until October 14.