Friday, October 14, 2016

MSA and the 2nd Amendment

Some folks have asked if the Montana Sportsmen Alliance “…supports the second amendment.” That is indeed a broad question, given the numerous political and social issues that firearms ownership and use means these days. The short answer is yes. But this bears some explanation.

Firearms have been and are an integral part of Montana’s history, traditions and culture, and certainly our hunting heritage. Our membership includes hunters, target and trap shooters, collectors, outdoor writers, gunsmiths, wildlife professionals, law enforcement officers and a wide array of other folks whose avocations and vocations revolve around guns. As such, MSA unequivocally supports the ownership and use of firearms, the second amendment (as well as the other 27 and the Montana Constitution) that makes such a right as well as all lawful, appropriate, and ethical uses ownership entails.

We are proud that our membership crosses social, economic and political lines. It has always been our belief that conservation is not the sole property of a particular political party or ideology but of all the people. Our membership has proven this time and time again when members who, in other political or social situations or discussions, couldn’t be farther apart come together as MSA. We are unified on behalf of fish and wildlife, wild lands, good stewardship and management, access and in sum, keeping the “Best” in “The Last Best Place.”

The MSA was founded and operates as a conservation organization. We began in order to fill what we believed was a serious void in the effective and informed advocacy for the wild resources that we, as Montanans, hold dear to our way of life, and our ability to enjoy and enhance our outdoor legacy. We saw —and still see— a growing threat to appropriate, reasoned, science-based management and opportunity and as such have tried to remain a focused, unified voice. We therefore pick our battles and direct our efforts and limited resources to those issues which we believe are fundamental to our purpose.

Firearms — their ownership, use, possession, misuse, et al— have hit the spotlight both nationally and here in Montana. There are many organizations whose sole purpose is to work exclusively in those arenas. MSA has, at times, allied itself with some of these groups in efforts where they align with our main conservation purposes. We opposed using suppressors for big game hunting because of ethical and legal issues- not because of gun use or ownership. We oppose I-177 because we believe it has ramifications for hunting, constitutes fundamentally flawed wildlife management and public policy and would further politicize the already over-politicized resource management process. But because of the huge array of sub and side issues, MSA must remain true to its primary conservation mission and not divide its efforts. Just as important, however, we whole-heartedly support and encourage our members to individually follow their beliefs and consciences and to be actively involved with whatever groups they chose and their issues.

So again, does the MSA support the second amendment? Absolutely.

Monday, October 10, 2016

2016 Montana Sportsmen Alliance Endorsements

Once again it is election time. Absentee ballots go out this week. MSA has been very busy this cycle interviewing candidates, vetting choices, and sticking up for our candidates. We are proud of our list. Please consider these folks as we do; we are confident they are friendly to sportsmen/women, understand science based management, the Montana Model, Public Trust Doctrine, and Federal lands transfer baloney.
In this era of disgusting politics, it is hard to sort thru the BS and really tiring to listen to. Please do not become complacent…GET OUT AND VOTE. As you are voting, consider if the candidates know and understand our issues. Do they understand the resentment about legislating game management? Do they understand the fallacy of Fed Land Transfer? Will they stand with us against all the threats to fish and game management? And, DID ANY OF THE CANDIDATES SIGN THE STATE OR FEDERAL LAND TRANSER POSITION of both state and national GOP. MSA is non-partisan but we will be very uneasy voting for land transfer folks.
Even tho the ballots will be out, if you are confused on any stands, contact the candidate and ask questions. DO NOT VOTE BLINDLY!
MSA Leadership

Denise Juneau US Representative
Steve Bullock Governor
Larry Jent MT Attorney General
Dirk Sandefur Supreme Court
Melissa Romano Superintendent of Public Instruction
Glenn Ferren SD 07
Jen Gross SD 25
Margie McDonald SD 26
Jeff Welborn SD 36
Tom France SD 47
Denley Loge HD 14
Rob Cook HD 18
Tom Jacobson HD 21
Jean Price HD 24
Casey Schreiner HD 26
Bridgett Smith HD 31
Rae Peppers HD 41
Jessica Karjala HD 48
Kelly McCarthy HD 49
Virginia Court HD 50
Merlyn Huso HD 70
Tom Welch HD 72
Amanda Curtis HD 74
Patrick Johnson HD 80
Janet Ellis HD 81
Scott Ralston HD 85
Margaret Gorski HD 88
Ellie Hill Smith HD 90
Addrien Marx HD 92
Willis Curdy HD 98

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Montana Sportsmen Alliance proudly endorses Larry Jent for Attorney General 

The Montana Sportsmen Alliance PAC proudly endorses Larry Jent in his candidacy for Montana Attorney General. 

Jent’s long-standing legal and legislative record supporting conservation and public land issues coupled with his personal experience and commitment to our wild outdoor heritage arms him with the perspective and knowledge to stand and act on behalf of the sportsmen and women of Montana as the state’s top legal official.

As an outdoorsman, Mr. Jent understands the passion Montanans hold for our wild resources and the vigilance necessary to ensure their continued enhancement and perpetuation. His experience as an attorney has given him the tools to stand on behalf of conservation issues, both in his community and at the state level. As a legislator, Mr. Jent has been at the forefront of efforts to protect public access such as Montana’s landmark Stream Access Law, successfully sought to expand penalties for the willful violation and unlawful commercialization of Montana’s wildlife and worked to gain pay parity for Montana Game Wardens. Across the board, he has played a key role in issues to deal fairly and responsibly with the delicate balance between private property rights and the Public Trust.

At a time when efforts are being intensified to privatize public resources and further exclude average Montanans from their outdoor heritage, Mr. Jent can be relied upon as an experienced advocate and an articulate and active voice against that tide. We need an Attorney General who supports and will defend the long-standing legal tradition and precedents that ensure a future for Montana’s wild legacy. Larry Jent has proven ability and commitment to do so.

Larry Jent Conservation Interview
  • Larry Jent's background
  • Access to MT State Lands & the Attorney General's seat on the State Land Board
  • Natural Resource Law - the Red Rim Case
  • Stream Access
  • MT Hunting Legislation & FWP Game Wardens
  • Bridge Access
  • Clean/Green Energy Technologies in MT
  • Attorney General Position and the State Land Transfer Issue
  • Outdoor Recreation, one of Montana's largest economies
  • Dark Money & Citizens United

Monday, March 28, 2016

Hunter Landowner Relations by Joe Perry

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 bandaids 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!

Solutions: Sportsmen, take the FWP Hunter Landowner Stewardship course online. Report lawbreakers, “if you see something, say something.” Treat access to private lands as a privilege. Use “Fair Chase” and “Hunter Ethics” as your guide.

Landowners, know what the “Public Trust Doctrine” and the “North American Model of Wildlife Conservation” are. Remember your leased public lands are a privilege not a right. Share the resources your property can offer with your less fortunate urban cousins. Keep track of bad eggs and habitual offenders and let them pay the price for indiscretions, while allowing others to prove themselves. Have enough tolerance for the Public to harvest excess critters within the regular season.

Outfitters: Yes you are a business but, since you harvest Public Trust resources, treat it as a privilege. Look at more than just money in your pocket. Have some compassion for the critters. Work with sportsmen to allow harvest on leased lands during the regular seasons. Take responsibility for problems you create. When you run to the legislature to bypass public process, expect to pay the price of bad relationships with the Public. Public Land Outfitters, if you don’t want to pay the price for bad relationships caused by Private Land Outfitters, speak up for integrity! You have always shared the resources and have taken a shared role in management decisions. You have worked with sportsmen on a variety of issues. Be cautious who you allow to represent you.

Joe Perry

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Changes at Montana Sportsmen Alliance

Montana Sportsmen Alliance,
A Voice of Reason on Montana Fish and Wildlife Issues, 
is concerned about the future of our hunting/fishing heritage in Montana.
To help address these growing issues:

  • We have added a couple new board members, included Consultant Contributors, redesigned our MSA website ( click MSA Home, soon we will have our legislative scorecard uploaded).
  • To utilize social media, we created our MSA Blog for news, articles, MSA position statements and public comments, including articles from our Consultant Contributors. You can subscribe by adding your email address in the "Follow by Email" box on the right hand side of the MSA Blog, then hitting the "Submit" button. You will then receive a confirmation email in your inbox from Feedburner, click the confirmation link they provide in the email and you are set to receive notifications whenever MSA posts to the Blog.
  • Additionally, we have set up a MSA Constant Contact email alert to quickly network issues as they happen. You can subscribe to our MSA Blog and Email Alerts, to bring the news right to your email box. If you are receiving this News Alert as a forward and would like to subscribe, simply click the olive green "Subscribe" button at the top right hand side, fill in your Name and email address, then click the gold "Sign Up" button, you will automatically be subscribed to MSA's Constant Contact mail list. If you would like to Unsubscribe, there is a safe, one click Unsubscribe link at the bottom of the Email.

We hope you like our efforts and of course, we are always open to suggestions.  For those of you who don’t know, we have been active on our Facebook page since our old site had become obsolete.
MSA has also made it easier to contribute through a secure, online Paypal account, where you can also use your debit/credit card, if you dont have a Paypal account. You are always welcome and encouraged to contribute by check through the old fashioned snail mail:

Montana Sportsmen Alliance
3238 3rd Ave. S.
Great Falls, MT 59405

Welcome and we hope you enjoy.

John Borgreen, Great Falls
Sam Milodragovich, Butte
Joe Perry, Conrad
JW Westman, Laurel
Robert Wood, Hamilton
Steve Schindler, Glasgow
Jeff Herbert, Helena

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

MSA APHIS Brucella Abortus Select Agent List Comment

March 14, 2016

Docket # APHIS -2014-0095
Regulatory Analysis & Development
PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8

4700 River Road, Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238

Dr. Isaac:

The Montana Sportsmen Alliance, the voice of reason for the Montana hunters, anglers and conservationists appreciates the ability to comment on this very important issue. MSA strongly supports the removal of brucella abortus from the APHIS overlap select agent list.

MSA recognizes the hardship to Montana’s cattle producers when brucellosis is positively diagnosed. Private landowners, are our partners in stewardship of our publicly owned wildlife resources. MSA is equally concerned of transmission of brucellosis from domestic livestock to our wildlife, such as bison and elk. The fear of brucellosis transmission has greatly affected the natural distribution of our wildlife across the landscape and has caused conflicts between the livestock industry and wildlife advocates.

Reducing the above conflicts could be greatly affected by more research; therefore, being able to produce a more effective livestock vaccine is the ultimate outcome. With brucella abortus listed on the select agent list MSA strongly feels the overall production of a better vaccine is greatly hampered. In closing MSA feels removal of brucella abortus could be safely accomplished and would allow better, more thorough research. The end product could be an improved cattle vaccine, which would benefit Montana’s livestock industry as well as our publicly owned wildlife. MSA again, appreciates the ability to comment on issues of importance.

Respectfully submitted,

MSA Leadership Group:
John Borgreen, Great Falls
Sam Milodragovich, Butte
Joe Perry, Conrad
J.W. Westman, Park City
Robert Wood, Hamilton
Jeff Herbert, Helena
Steve Schindler, Glasgow

Saturday, March 12, 2016

MSA Condolences

 Concerning the death of Jennifer and Joseph Knarr and their son, Daniel,

To our friends in Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, so sorry and sad for your loss. Please know you, and all touched by this, are in our thoughts and prayers and we share your loss. Take comfort in family and friends and cherished memories. 

The Montana Sportsmen Alliance would like to offer our condolences to the family and to our family of FWP wardens!