Thursday, May 21, 2020

Daily Interlake Montana’s outdoor recreation traditions are at stake in the Republican primary



Montana’s outdoor recreation traditions are at stake in the Republican primary

by Andrew McKean
| May 10, 2020 1:00 AM
Those of us Montanans who like to hunt, fish, and hike just want to do more of it, unburdened by the political implications of our activities.
Of course, it’s hard to escape politics, even far from the trailhead or the boat launch. Our ability to access rivers and streams in the state is itself a political expression, an ability won by passionate access advocates and then upheld by our courts. Our ability to hunt public wildlife is assured only because people who came before us understood that without access to the state’s elk and deer herds, bighorn sheep bands, and grouse coveys, they’re private property for all practical purposes.
Even our ability to hike, ride, or drive our public lands without encountering industrial facilities like gas fields or abandoned mines is dependent on which administration is in charge of public-land management decisions.
Given that politics is about choice, this year’s Montana governor’s race offers a stark alternative between candidates who have vowed to uphold our hard-fought traditions of access, public management of public wildlife, and citizen-crafted policies and those who would close our streams, profit from our public wildlife, and leave management decisions to a crony crew of insiders.
In the Democratic primary, the public-access and public-trust policies that have made Montana a destination for outdoorsfolk and stoked the engine of our outdoors economy are shared by most candidates. It’s on the Republican side that the starkest choices await primary voters.
Our current one-term Congressman, Greg Gianforte, has had problems with Montana’s stream-access law since he tried to block legal access to a fork of the Gallatin River across his property near Bozeman. A settlement with Fish, Wildlife and Parks resulted in mitigating some of the impacts by public recreationists, but the issue remains: Gianforte’s instinct is to defer to private-property rights, even when the law — and tradition — of public recreation access is clear.
That instinct has been formalized and intensified with Gianforte’s pick for his lieutenant governor, Kristen Juras, a former law professor who has written that landowners should have the “right to exclude” the public from legally accessible waterways. How would Montana’s remarkable stream-access law fare in a Gianforte-Juras administration?
Gianforte’s main Republican opponent, current Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and running mate Jon Knokey, have distributed a detailed outdoor strategy in which they pledge to not only uphold traditional recreational access, including to Montana’s streams and rivers, but they’ve committed to improving access to the state’s 3 million acres of inaccessible public land.
Then there’s the issue of access to public wildlife. That’s a bedrock principle of the North American model of wildlife management, but a number of Western states have eroded that pillar by giving quotas of hunting licenses to landowners to sell to whomever they want. It’s called “Ranching for Wildlife” in Colorado and “Cooperative Wildlife Management” in Utah, but it amounts to the same thing – selling the public’s wildlife to the highest bidder.
Gianforte has a demonstrated history of siding with large landowners when it comes to mitigating impacts of wildlife. During his previous run for the governor’s office he said that requiring a landowner to provide public access in order to qualify for tools to offset impacts of wildlife amounts to a taking of private-property rights, even though multiple Supreme Court cases have ruled that wildlife, and the impacts on forage or fences, must be borne by landowners as a “condition of the land.”
It’s a short step from thinking that landowners can do whatever they want with depredating wildlife to rewarding large landowners who harbor big-game herds with hunting licenses that they can sell to outfitters for high-dollar hunts.
Fox and Knokey, meanwhile, have pledged to use incentives to open more private land to public hunting, using access tools like block management to direct hunters to the most problematic big-game herds in the state, and collecting broad and diverse input as the state drafts an elk-management plan that aims to use public hunting as the primary tool to reduce concentrations of elk.
That’s the bright line between the two candidates. One uses the cudgel of the courts to challenge public-access traditions. The other uses collaboration and consultation to resolve friction between private property and public resources.
These differences are ultimately political, but they transcend party affiliation. In this primary election, I encourage Democrats to vote the Republican ballot and cast a ballot that recognizes and continues our Montana values of collaboration and public access to public resources. A Fox/Knokey primary victory would ensure that November’s general election is about other issues — funding for social services, investment in public infrastructure, and rebuilding our agricultural economy — and not about who gets to access our remarkable natural resources.
Ballots are in the mail over the next week. Vote, and then go hiking, fishing, or hunting without having to fret about the political consequences of doing what you love.
Andrew McKean is a freelance outdoor writer and former editor-in-chief of Outdoor Life magazine. He lives in Glasgow.

Voter Guide







2020 Primary Election Gubernatorial Voter Guide

Thank you for being a voter. This – and every – election has significant impacts on our public lands. Your vote makes a difference. 
The gubernatorial race is particularly important because Montana’s governor can make decisions on how the state allocates state funding for public land and conservation projects and has the power to pass or veto bills that have made it through the state legislature. The governor also serves on the Montana Land Board, which makes decisions regarding the management of state trust lands and the acquisition of public lands. Moreover, the governor can use the power of his office as a bully pulpit to speak out on public lands issues at the local, state, and federal level.
Montana's primary election is June 2. 
To best protect public health, this year each of Montana's 56 counties is conducting an all-mail election. It's important to note that while your normal polling place will be closed, you can still register to vote or cast your ballot in person. More information about this election, including how to register to vote, is included in the “Election Information” section below this guide. 
About this Guide
In creating this guide, we sent a questionnaire to each of the candidates for governor. We did not receive responses from the Gianforte or Olszewski campaigns. To determine what their answers to our questions would be, we researched their positions using publicly available information, such as voting records and public statements. Where there was clear evidence of a position, we have answered the question and linked to the source. In cases where the candidate has been asked the question but not provided a clear answer as to their position, the guide reads “uncommitted,” and where there is no record of a candidate’s position, the guide reads “unknown.” 
This guide was paid for by Wild Montana Action Fund
Kim Leighton, Treasurer
80 S. Warren
Helena, MT 59601

2020 Gubernatorial Candidates


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Greg Gianforte/
Kristen Juras (R)
Endorsements: Family Research Council, Gun Owners of America, and Susan B. Anthony List

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Mike Cooney/
Casey Schreiner (D)
Endorsements: Governor Steve Bullock, Senator Jon Tester, former Senator Max Baucus

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Tim Fox/
Jon Knokey (R)
Endorsements: Former MT Governor Marc Racicot, Randy Newberg (public lands activist and host of “Fresh Tracks”), Andrew McKean (former editor-in-chief of “Outdoor Life” magazine)

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Whitney Williams/
Buzz Mattelin (D)
Endorsements: Governor Brian Schweitzer, former Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, and Emily's List

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Al Olszewski/
Ken Bogner (R)
Endorsements: Montanans for Limited Government, Major General Paul E. Valley, Former State Senator Ken Miller

Do you support the transfer of federal public lands ownership to the state?


Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – NO* (source)
Fox/Knokey – NO
Olszewski/Bogner – YES* (source)
Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – NO
Cooney/Schreiner – NO

Do you support the transfer of federal public lands management to the state?


Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – YES* (source)
Fox/Knokey – NO
Olszewski/Bogner – YES* (source)
Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – NO
Cooney/Schreiner – NO

Habitat Montana is a state program that uses out-of-state hunting and fishing license dollars and federal funding to purchase additional public lands and easements for fish and wildlife habitat and hunting access. Do you support using Habitat Montana funds to purchase additional public lands?


Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – NO* (source)
Fox/Knokey – YES
Olszewski/Bogner – UNKNOWN
Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – YES
Cooney/Schreiner – YES

Would you support using state funds to purchase additional lands to create new state parks, fishing access sites, and other recreation and conservation areas?


Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – NO* (source)
Fox/Knokey – YES
Olszewski/Bogner – UNKNOWN
Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – YES
Cooney/Schreiner – YES

Would you support a small increase in state taxes or fees in order to protect water, conserve wildlife habitat, and create more opportunities for outdoor recreation in Montana?


Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – NO* (source)
Fox/Knokey – NO
Olszewski/Bogner – NO* (source)
Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – YES
Cooney/Schreiner – YES

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), fed entirely by offshore oil and gas royalties, provides federal funding for local outdoor recreation infrastructure (such as baseball and soccer fields and tennis courts), public land and water access, parks, and other conservation projects in Montana. Do you support full and permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund?


Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – UNCOMMITTED* (source)
Fox/Knokey – YES
Olszewski/Bogner – UNKNOWN
Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – YES
Cooney/Schreiner – YES

The Montana Water Rights Protection Act (S. 3019) is a piece of federal legislation that would ratify the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes' (CSKT) Water Compact that was passed by the Montana Legislature in 2015. Do you support the Montana Water Rights Protection Act?


Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – UNCOMMITTED* (source)
Fox/Knokey – YES
Olszewski/Bogner – NO* (source)
Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – YES
Cooney/Schreiner – YES

In 2017 and 2018, Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte both introduced legislation (S. 2206, H.R. 5148, and H.R. 5149) that together would have eliminated 29 of Montana’s 44 wilderness study areas. Do you support this legislation?


Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – YES*
Fox/Knokey – NO
Olszewski/Bogner – YES* (source)
Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – NO
Cooney/Schreiner – NO

The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA) (S. 1765) is a collaborative proposal crafted by local community members representing timber, ranching, outfitting, conservation, recreation, and other interests. The act would create recreation areas for snowmobiling and mountain biking near Ovando, as well as enlarge the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Mountains Wilderness areas. Do you support the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act?


Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – UNCOMMITTED* (source)
Fox/Knokey – YES
Olszewski/Bogner – YES* (source)
Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – YES
Cooney/Schreiner – YES

Three years ago, Montana created an Office of Outdoor Recreation to work with businesses to help grow the outdoor recreation economy and to support the public lands, wildlife habitat, and waters on which these jobs depend. Do you support funding the Office of Outdoor Recreation to continue this work?


Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – UNKNOWN* (source)
Fox/Knokey – YES
Olszewski/Bogner – UNKNOWN
Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – YES
Cooney/Schreiner – YES

Noncompetitive oil and gas leasing is a practice that enables oil and gas companies to pay $1.50 an acre for leases to public land parcels by bypassing regular Bureau of Land Management bidding processes. Do you support the practice of noncompetitive oil and gas leasing?


Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – UNKNOWN*
Fox/Knokey – YES
Olszewski/Bogner – UNKNOWN*
Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – NO
Cooney/Schreiner – NO

Do you support increasing mitigation and reclamation requirements on oil and gas producers to ensure that development does not impact critical wildlife habitats?


Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – NO* (source)
Fox/Knokey – NO
Olszewski/Bogner – UNKNOWN*
Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – YES
Cooney/Schreiner – YES

In recent years, governors have used the veto power to protect access to public lands and water from bad legislation. Would you veto any bills that negatively impact the access rights of Montanans, including any that threaten the funding or authority of Habitat Montana?


Democrats
Williams/Mattelin – YES
Cooney/Schreiner – YES
Republicans
Gianforte/Juras – UNKNOWN * (source)
Fox/Knokey – YES
Olszewski/Bogner – UNKNOWN*
Election Information 
Ballots were mailed to voters on May 8. If you believe you are registered but did not receive your ballot the following week, you should check your registration status on the Secretary of State's My Voter Page to ensure both your voter registration and mailing addresses are current.
If you need to register to vote or update your address or other information, there is still time. You can complete your voter registration application online through the Secretary of State website and mail a printed copy to your county's elections office. For the primary, your mailed form must be received by May 26. After that, you must visit your county's designated location in person. A list of in-person registration locations is available here. Every eligible Montanan has the right to register to vote up to – and even on – Election Day.
Once you receive and complete your ballot, simply return it in the enclosed, postage-paid envelope. If you prefer to vote in-person, or if you need a replacement ballot, visit your county elections office. Click here for a county-by-county list. You can track your ballot on My Voter Page to see when the county receives it and confirm that it has been accepted. It's important to note that whether you vote by mail or in person, all ballots must be received by your county elections office by 8 p.m. on June 2. 
If you have any questions about ballot delivery or the registration process, do not hesitate to call your county election administrator. They are ready to serve Montanans in these unprecedented times.
To stay in-the-know about upcoming elections and legislation that will affect our public lands, please sign up for our email list. 

Billings Gazette "GOP's Moment of Choice"



GUEST OPINION

Guest view: GOP's moment of choice



Of course, it’s much harder to see clearly when you’re living through history in real time.
I was reminded of this while reading a newspaper column by Andrew McKean, the former editor of Outdoor Life who lives in Glasgow. McKean very capably highlighted the choice voters face in the Republican primary for Montana governor, and he did so through the lens of public lands.
Our one-term Congressman, Greg Gianforte, has a fundamental instinct to privatize our lands, our waters and our wildlife, and has chosen as his running mate a law professor who has written that private landowners should be allowed to exclude the public from what are now public-access waterways.
Gianforte’s main primary opponent is Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, who has drafted a plan not only to maintain public access but also to vastly improve that access for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation.
This issue – public access to public lands – provides a large window into how these two candidates think about the world. It’s a fundamental difference, and reveals much about how they weigh the good of the many against the profit of the few.
And just as this one small issue reveals much about the contrast between these two candidates, the divide between Gianforte and Fox exposes a critical split within today’s Republican Party. Yes, this election is about public land access, and it is about the public good versus private power, but it also is about the heart and soul of America’s GOP.
The Republican Party was born as the party of innovation and leadership. It has been the party of emancipation, public education for all, the National Park Service and public lands, transcontinental railroads, and interstate highways. It has been the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, and the party of people who believe in both individual liberty and civil service.
It has not been the party of locking out the public interest for the profit of a private interest.
Civil service and personal ambition are both tremendous motivators, but they function best when balanced to protect the rights of everyone.
This election is one in which much doubt will be removed regarding the future of our party, and in which there will be no room for the leadership examples of both Theodore Roosevelt and Mitch McConnell. Roosevelt warned politicians “not to represent any special class and promote merely that class's selfish interests, but to represent all true and honest men of all sections and all classes.” It was good advice then, and it’s good advice now.
Republicans traditionally have been idealists, in that they believe in both the individual and in principles greater than the individual. But now, some in the party embrace the blame-politics of scapegoating and scoring points against political “enemies,” rather than working with others to do the good work of public service.
There’s no escaping that we’re living right at a turning point in American history.
This Republican primary is not just about public lands, or about the political philosophies of these two Montana candidates. It is about deciding who the party leaders should be and, by extension, what the character of the Republican Party will be for years to come. In the recurring history of primary elections, we have rarely had such an opportunity to choose our own future. We as voters should be prepared to meet that moment.
Bob Brown is a former Montana Secretary of State and state Senate president.

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

A Wakeup Call

A Wakeup Call
As a retired physician, I am writing to express my deep concern with the irresponsible attitude too many Montanans are showing toward current “shelter in place” guidelines enacted in response to the coronavirus epidemic. All around our state, people continue to gather for clearly non-essential purposes as a result of magical thinking. It can’t happen here. There are effective medications that can save us. I’m too young and healthy to contract the disease. If only any of this were true.
    Really, really wanting to believe something will not make it true. It may have worked for Peter Pan, but it will not alter the course of the current epidemic. Critics of recent actions to limit the spread of coronavirus have suggested that the efforts of Governor Bullock and state agencies represent governmental overreach, but nothing could be further from the truth. These actions represent government attempting to fulfill its highest obligation: protecting the welfare of its citizens. That’s why we have laws against drunk driving. Ignoring social distancing guidelines is just as irresponsible.
   
    The country’s coronavirus death toll has now surpassed that of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We responded to that tragedy with an investment of billions of dollars and thousands of lives that produced equivocal results at best. Is it now really too much to ask that people simply self-quarantine until this epidemic is under control?
During my working years I cared for many patients dying on ventilators, and it was a grim experience for all involved. Recent communication with front-line physicians in New Orleans suggests that most coronavirus patients on ventilators don’t survive to leave the hospital. More ventilators won’t stop this epidemic. Neither will a vaccine—which is likely a year away—or hydroxychloroquine, or other exercises in magical thinking.
We are fortunate to live in one of the states that has taken some of the proactive steps to control the epidemic that have been so sorely lacking at the federal level. Now it is up to us as individuals and Montana communities to pay attention to them.
                        E. Donnall Thomas Jr. M.D.
                        Lewistown

Friday, February 7, 2020

Hunter Landowner Relations


Hunter Landowner Relations
Joe Perry
Please go viral

I am a farmer/rancher and landowner.  I am also a hunter, angler, and recreationist.  Each of these terms describe me but I am the sum total of all.   I have never charged anyone a dime for access to my property.  I take on as many hunters as I can but sometimes have to limit the numbers so as not to be overrun.  After 40 years on the land, I have retired. Over that time, I have watched the “landscape” deteriorate from “hunt where you want but be respectful” to one of tightly controlled – or no- access.  I believe that there is more to be said, and said candidly from the perspectives of both landowners and hunters/recreationists.

The root of the issue seems to be from a growing disconnect between rural landowners and urban recreationists.  We’re all busy.  We are much more mobile and don’t have the same level and type of contact with close friends and neighbors as we did in the past.   I remember fondly all the times our family went to stay the weekend with our country cousins.  Brandings, livestock and chores, machinery and driving, real fresh eggs, milk and cream and maybe hand-cranked ice cream   Great wholesome food from gardens and barnyards.  We kids kept busy all weekend while our folks visited and played cards.  We developed an understanding of each other’s lives and real, close relationships came from that. 

The level and kinds of interaction today has declined due to many factors.  Livestock handling and machinery have become increasingly high tech and expensive.  Kids aren’t welcome to play here.   Farms having combinations of geese, turkeys, chickens, milk cows, beef, sheep, pigs, and cattle are rare.

In addition, there are so many additional “extra-curricular” activities and sports that we didn’t have.  Parents pass each other coming and going, often dividing kid’s interests and commitments between them.   Social time is at these events.  Golf, tennis, soccer, swimming, etc. have been added to football basketball and track.  Computer games and fast-thumbing on smart phones occupies the attention of so many folks.

Yet, a major touchstone of Montana’s heritage is shared resources such as wildlife.  Montanans love to hunt and fish and recreate.  It is family time.  Wild game is a regular feature on the menus of many homes.  People move here from out of state and work for less money than they could get in big cities for those reasons.  Many of us who were born here made conscious decisions to stay here even if it meant making less money. The quality- and quantity of life- was worth the trade.

The personal relationship building of the past seems to receive less emphasis.  Liability issues and OSHA make free help from outside folks much riskier and far less desirable.  Relationships are much harder to build at a distance. Getting Western Montana townsfolk and Eastern Montana producers together happens on fewer occasions.

Something that many people who are not rural producers don’t understand is that private Property Rights are paramount to landowners.  Management decisions and the responsibility for the results of those decisions made on private property largely rest with the owners.  Their livelihoods survive or not, based on these decisions.  There too, are those landowners who consider the public lands they lease for farming or grazing to be essentially their own personal property.  Many of these folks fail to recognize that they are only paying leases for grazing and/or farming.  Those leases do not allow limiting access to the public.  Also, as a result, many lessees are inclined to deny public access across their private property to access these public lands.

One thing that has struck me is that there seems to be little focus on what I call Public Property Rights.  There are those who deny that the public owns all wildlife, and that each and every one of us shares in the ownership of our public lands.  For some Americans and Montanans, public lands are the only ownership they will ever have.  As a result, they love their public lands, and with good reason.

Why are landowners often at odds with recreationists?  I see many contributing factors, attributed to both “sides.”   Some recreationists show what I perceive is an arrogance about private lands.  Folks forget that the landowner owes them nothing; trespass or access is a privilege not a right.  Garbage dumping, littering, thoughtless tearing up of roads, willful unethical behavior, ignoring game laws, property damage and vandalism, unauthorized driving – the list goes on and on.  When these activities regularly occur, it’s hard for a landowner to want to be generous. Additionally, many recreationists are not good about turning in illegal activities.  They assume it’s not their problem or simply don’t want to be bothered.  We need to step up and be accountable. “If you see something, say something” is the right way to help and show appreciation for the privileges you are accorded on private land.

The story of the hunter or angler encountering a landowner who treats them unfairly and poorly is as old as the hills.  Upon asking permission to hunt on a rancher’s land, are lectured about how bad all recreationists are, getting a solid chewing for other’s inexcusable indiscretions. The recreationist gets an earful about how tough the landowner has it, and is personally blamed for the state’s wildlife agency’s missteps or contentious policies. Add to that the increasing lack of public access to private lands where there is so much pent up demand that landowners get inundated.   Very early morning visits and calls and those late at nite to landowners who do welcome the public become overwhelming, coupled with long hunting seasons.  As a result, good, reliable folks are denied access without having a chance to prove themselves. 

Along with these issues, add private land outfitters to the mix.  They are profit driven, and frankly, offer an alternative to landowners in the form of good payments and responsibility to handle all recreation on the place.  Since outfitters usually demand exclusive access for their clients, the public is completely left out of the equation.  Some outfitters claim to “manage” these places to maximize bucks and bulls but in reality is simply restricting access and as a result putting more and more wild critters on the ground.  “Managing” for trophy wildlife by restricting access can be done by anyone; it is not wildlife management.  Managing overall game populations and their distribution across the landscape is the charge of FWP in Montana.  But there seems to be no responsibility taken by these outfitters to “manage” (i.e.- encourage and engage in the hunting of) all critters in the herd, particularly those pesky, “valueless” antlerless critters who are protected by limited access and hunting during the regular seasons, Wildlife numbers expand, often exponentially, with the result of  over-objective herds, moving  onto the neighboring properties (often ones that do allow public hunting), reeking havoc on someone else’s property.  Late season, antlerless-only seasons then are demanded to solve the “problem” without affecting outfitted, antlered buck or bull clientele.   There seems to be no consideration to run seasons concurrently to avoid brucellosis, chronic wasting disease, and other maladies that result from unnatural concentrations of wildlife.  Concurrent seasons could disperse animals on the landscape while at the same time, offer public hunters a chance to harvest on private and public lands accessible to them.  Shoulder seasons (hunting season that would begin and/or end after the 5-week General Rifle Season) were recently pushed as a means to deal with these problems. But they have performance criteria that require buy-in by landowners and outfitters, which has been pretty limited except with a few notable exceptions.  The problems created for the private landowners through exclusive hunting on their properties keeps going to the legislature for resolution.  The Fish and Wildlife Commission is the place where such decisions need to be made. They have the time, access to resources, information and expertise to consider the best way to move. Making wildlife management policy decisions in the partisan arena only serves to slap band aids on problems and utilizes the most convenient and politically expedient solutions. We’ve seen the can kicked down the road too many times.  Nonetheless, I expect to see the outfitters to continue to try to legislate their way out of their responsibility for the problem.

Farmers and ranchers were the original conservationists.  Landowners are a fiercely independent lot and often that tenacity has paid off.  Farmers and ranchers are coming off the best financial decade ever and they deserve it.  There have been some real tough times for producers with little or no return on their investments.  Often, government help was the only way we survived.  Yes, government help with crop price deficiencies and disaster aid kept many farmers and ranchers on the land.  Subsidized crop insurance makes risk management affordable to producers.  In addition, the services of government agencies like the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service and Dept. Natural Resources and Conservation provide help with land management decisions, loans, and improvements like water and grazing systems, fencing, trees, CRP, wildlife improvements, and many others.  But are these entitlements?  Maybe to some, but they are paid for by all the tax paying residents of our country, “The Public.”
Leases on state and federal public lands for farming and grazing are a huge, necessary part of many producers’ operations.  Generally, these leases are made far below “market”- what would be charged by a private landowner.  In the case of federal leases, they are so low as to be ridiculous.  Yet, these allowances have kept many an outfit in Montana in operation. Once again, who pays for the costs of these agencies who often manage at a big loss?  “The Public.”


My intention is not to single out anyone. Keeping agricultural operations viable not only contributes to the economy but more often than not, has been of great benefit to wildlife, fisheries and public recreation in general.  But I think it’s important to point to the fact there is legitimate and crucial financial interaction and relationship between producers and the public.  Yes, those same town folks who you go to church with, basketball games, funerals, weddings, and benefits.  The same folks who own the hotels, restaurants, gas stations, stores, bars, etc.  The families your kids go to school with.  Property taxes paid by landowners are a major component of the sustenance of our towns and counties. We need to recognize that it is a two-way street.

I believe it’s high time to realize we are all in this together and no one is getting out alive.  Landowners, producers, and their city cousins all contribute to something called community, this thing we call “The Last Best Place”.  FWP manages wildlife in trust for all of us.  We all have legitimate and equal stakes in how it is managed and maintained into the future. Landowners as well as recreationists must realize we all rely upon one another, and, in fact, need each other. Tolerance and cooperation are the main components of our collective successful future.  We all need to take responsibility for our actions!
Joe Perry


Sunday, January 26, 2020

MSA Comment to Commission on ESS


 Folks, this is our comment.  Please send in your comments as the 27th is the deadline.


January 26, 2020


Chairman Colton & Commissioners:


The Montana Sportsmen Alliance, MSA is the voice of reason for Montana resident hunters and anglers.  Our leadership group and the many sportsmen and women hale from many places on the Montana map. 

MSA would like to thank Chairman Colton and the Commission for making substantial changes to the 2020-2021 elk proposals. 

First things first; the present Elk Management Plan is still valid today, it is the standard of the industry, so to speak, and as relevant today as it was in January 2005 when it was unanimously approved by the Commission.  Although the EMP has never been fully implemented we strongly feel The EMP has been violated many times resulting from individuals, both in and out of the Department that wanted to take shortcuts or substitutions to circumvent the plan.  Actually, the ESS is one such substitution for the EMP.

The next thing is the matter of the third elk tag.  This is unbelievable that special interests can run something through our Montana Legislature while not even hiding their intended goals. The third elk tag is a travesty and needs to be watered down as much as possible.  It is nothing more than turning our public trust elk into so much vermin.

MSA has never agreed with the ESS, we went along because we are team players that want to help with any situation that may arise.  We also grudgingly agreed to the ESS because they came with specific criteria.  We took the department at their word and we intend to have them keep it. 

Regarding the ESS, we do want to thank those individuals within the Department that made strides to remove ESS from those Hunt Districts not meeting the criteria. 

We have formulated some ideas that we will briefly put to paper, as with anything MSA puts out to the public we will be happy to expound upon and visit with any of the Commissioners, Department personnel and others in the hunting community.

      The ESS were never meant to replace the general seasons, let’s ensure the ESS do not become the season of choice.

      Eliminate all ESS prior to the regular archery and end them no later than January 1, with special attention paid to those landowners that have made every effort to help themselves while helping hunters. Real “Skin in the Game”  These landowners are our neighbors, let’s treat them as such.

      Elk numbers have to be trending in the right direction prior to continuing any ESS.

      As per the valid EMP, let’s place strong consideration on antlerless-only seasons until objectives are achieved. 

      We suggest coming up with not only objective numbers but distribution numbers as well, extra work for sure, but we’re all Montanans and used to hard work.

      Quantitatively evaluate all elk hunting seasons and according to harvest criteria and base decisions on actual performance.

      Provide a transparent database of the numbers of elk harvested by non-residents; broken out by bulls, cows, and calves; outfitted or non.

      As per the EMP, exempting from objectives “inaccessible elk” (primarily on private lands)

1)    Use of sub-objectives, again part of the present EMP.  We will offer a further review of this use according to the EMP.

      Realistic elk objectives

      Establish elk working groups with equal stakeholders statewide as the Devil’s Kitchen group.  Set the rules at consensus-driven.  Each group messages the Commission and Department directly on items where consensus is reached, not through Department employees or commissioners individually.

       A clear need to revitalize the hunt roster/damage hunt program to ensure effective and equitable participation while maintaining expediency to benefit all stakeholders. 
To continue the stated 1. From the last page. In the present EMP, it was presupposed that the Adaptive Harvest Management would provide tools necessary to manage elk to accomplish the objectives.  We have to realize that in many areas of Montana that “de facto” refuges exist.  Reality is these elk numbers are mostly impossible or completely impossible to manage to an objective, in those instances, elk in those refuges could be counted separately and sub-objectives established.  This could be very helpful to those landowners that suffer the negative effects of neighboring elk that are off-limits to the public.

In closing MSA again, wishes to thank the Commission for their work.  We wish to have our comment added to the official record.


Respectfully submitted,


MSA Leadership Group

John Borgreen, Great Falls
Jeff Herbert, Helena
Doug Krings, Lewistown
Laura Lundquist, Missoula
Sam Milodragovich, Butte
Joe Perry, Conrad
Steve Schindler, Glasgow
E. Don Thomas, Lewistown
Dale Tribby, Miles City
JW Westman, Park City
Robert Wood, Hamilton