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Fresh Tracks Weekly - Conflicted Wildlife Trustees (Commissioners)

By incurring that cost and increasing wildlife, which benefits all beneficiaries, is there no reciprocation for that value? Or by placing the value does that make the landowners position a stakeholder supersedes position as bene?

I acknowledge it's damn complicated but I think any reciprocation needs to very judicious. In Montana for landowners, there are varied examples of it. (15% LO permit opportunity, different exchange opportunities (454), etc.)

Person X owns 640 acres and plants some alfalfa at a cost ( a net-cost?), theoretically increasing wildlife.
Person Y volunteers their time at a cost, ripping old fence out of the ground, theoretically increasing wildlife.
Person Z volunteers their time at a cost, writing grants for a local working group that will fund conifer encroachment work and weed mitigation, theoretically increasing wildlife.
Person W pays much higher taxes than most, and buys more hunting licenses than most, and therefore provides more funding to the agency that stewards our wildlife theoretically benefitting wildlife.
Person V.....
Person R....

What if person T does three of those things? Should reciprocation be greater? If reciprocity is based on net impact to the trust, I don't see why not.

I acknowledge and deeply value the role landowners play in our wildlife. Without em Montana would be far worse. Many of my friends are in that category. But in terms of net-impact on wildlife, I think there are many ways to have a positive impact, and it isn't clear that landownership, volunteerism, etc, is a monolith on which to base reciprocity - as much as the legislature or others would want it to be.

To be clear I am not arguing against reciprocity, but think we need to be aware how slippery it can get.
 
No im saying the voice of the people is being overshadowed by private interests not in the interests of the beneficiaries

Public policy and resources benefiting the few

So eliminate hunters, outfitters and landowners from having outsized influence?
 
So eliminate hunters, outfitters and landowners from having outsized influence?
No, keep private land overs from influencing public policy for their private gains at the public’s expense.

When appointees to the public trust only favor those few private interests, that’s a conflict of interest.

Clear enough?
 
No, keep private land overs from influencing public policy for their private gains at the public’s expense.

When appointees to the public trust only favor those few private interests, that’s a conflict of interest.

Clear enough?

So minimize the voices you dislike.
 
I acknowledge it's damn complicated but I think any reciprocation needs to very judicious. In Montana for landowners, there are varied examples of it. (15% LO permit opportunity, different exchange opportunities (454), etc.)

Person X owns 640 acres and plants some alfalfa at a cost ( a net-cost?), theoretically increasing wildlife.
Person Y volunteers their time at a cost, ripping old fence out of the ground, theoretically increasing wildlife.
Person Z volunteers their time at a cost, writing grants for a local working group that will fund conifer encroachment work and weed mitigation, theoretically increasing wildlife.
Person W pays much higher taxes than most, and buys more hunting licenses than most, and therefore provides more funding to the agency that stewards our wildlife theoretically benefitting wildlife.
Person V.....
Person R....

What if person T does three of those things? Should reciprocation be greater? If reciprocity is based on net impact to the trust, I don't see why not.

I acknowledge and deeply value the role landowners play in our wildlife. Without em Montana would be far worse. Many of my friends are in that category. But in terms of net-impact on wildlife, I think there are many ways to have a positive impact, and it isn't clear that landownership, volunteerism, etc, is a monolith on which to base reciprocity - as much as the legislature or others would want it to be.

To be clear I am not arguing against reciprocity, but think we need to be aware how slippery it can get.
Agree 100%. What you describe is the rabbit hole and the entrance is slippery . Once you place a value on something, everyone starts complaining about being treated unfairly versus another group. Any time a legislature is asked to be "more fair" the other groups complain about losing some value. Sort of gets back to the "divide the pie" or "increase the size" views. I would argue there is no way to solve the problem when demand is so much greater than supply. Again, we don't seem to have these arguments about things like endangered pygmy rabbits (in WA) or Swift foxes (in MT).
 
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I always say that the citizens of the state are the beneficiaries, hunters or not hunters.

Agreed, and it is nice to see you identify this particular aspect. It is not always a popular thing to point out.

This is the third video I’ve seen you put out discussing come variation of this subject in the past few months. Either it is just a coincidence, or you see some of the same things I do coming down the tracks towards hunters (both R and NR).
 
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This is the third video I’ve seen you put out discussing come variation of this subject in the past few months. Either it is just a coincidence, or you see some of the same things I do coming down the tracks towards hunters (both R and NR).
You're correct - not coincidence, for two reasons - 1) The political influence on wildlife is getting to a point that I'm trying to find ways to combat that, and 2) there are things coming down the pike that are big warning signs for me, coming from the groups who are leading the charge in WA and CO have developed their own concept of The Public Trust Doctrine and they are distributing it as the "accurate" version of the PTD. Suffice to say, it lacks a lot and is a far different version than what has been historically used as one of the tenets of the NAMWC.

And in my mind, both of those trends are intersecting in a way that is concerning. The more we allow Trustees to become quasi-political agents and not Trustees, the more we weaken the case that wildlife is held in Trust for all citizens as Beneficiaries. In effect, we are almost kicking our own stool out from under ourselves by not following the principles we claim to be the foundation that wildlife management is built on - The Public Trust Doctrine as one of the seven tenets of the North American Model.

If we can't operate that Trust according to how it was designed and we continue to allow it to be bastardized, it's going to be very difficult to combat those groups who come out a new version of the Public Trust Doctrine.

Maybe I'm out in the weeds. My decades of experience tells me I should be concerned; concerned enough that this topic has been one of our communication priorities in the last two years and might become more so in the next few years. Enough so that I've engaged a law firm to help me find out if I'm in the weeds. It will be worth the cost of their fees to know the legal support or weaknesses in how I've always viewed Trustee/Beneficiary/Corpus arrangements under the Public Trust Doctrine. So far, our meetings show that my understandings are pretty close to the way courts would view these topics, which is comforting.
 
Thanks for taking the time for that post, @Big Fin- I appreciate that.

I am well aware that I am often a broken record on HT in this issue, and try to keep it on the rails. But as a NR to all western states, one of my biggest concerns is the overt R vs NR combat when it comes to tag allocation. This isn’t new, but it has certainly reached a fever level in the past year or two.

The reality, as you pointed out and we should all be very cautious of, is that hunters are a minority of the beneficiaries in every western state. We would be much better served sticking together, but the past few years have been very antagonistic (both sides, and I’ve certainly joined the fray). This not only dilutes the leverage we have, but serves to harm advocacy. Colorado’s CATS thread would be an example of this.

We can all virtue signal about how people’s advocacy should not be connected to what tags they have a chance at. But the reality is that people are always going to care more about what they can participate in, or at least have the hope of getting to participate in.

The NAM and Public Trust Doctrine philosophy is increasingly being held out as a tool of convenience in my opinion. It’s easy to list off a number of things that are seemingly in direct conflict that have general support from the Hunt Talk community among others (advocacy group raffle tags, for example). It’s easy to point fingers when we identify what we perceive as abuse of the system- but is our collective house in order?

Maybe it’s not the one you're asking, but it seems to beg the question- do the NAM and Public Trust Doctrine actually matter? Or only when we want them to?
 
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Maybe it’s not the one you're asking, but it seems to beg the question- do the NAM and Public Trust Doctrine actually matter? Or only when we want them to?
My opinion - yes, they matter. They matter a lot. If they don't matter, then I've spent most of my adult life "tilting at windmills."

I don't feel that they only matter when we want them to. Those issue matter whether it does/doesn't work toward my personal favor. I see how some think asserting the principles of a state-based Public Trust Doctrine is a selective application of the NA Model. I don't see it that way. I'll try to explain.

I accept the complications that come with state-trusteed wildlife and public lands owned by the Federal government. The access to tags determines one of the primary connection some have to the public lands. As states become more accountable to their residents under this state-based wildlife Trust model, that impacts non-residents. As it negatively impacts non-residents, I understand their diminished connection to public land issues.

That need for direct connection drives a lot of our content. We feel that if we want people to advocate for something, it has to come from a tangible experience where they can feel it, breath it, see it, even eat it. It is unrealistic to expect people to advocate for an abstract idea they have little chance to be connected to. I hope they will, but pragmatically, it's just not going to happen.

All of that is why I continue to hammer the idea that "growing larger herds" is the best solution to these inherent contradictions of accountability to state residents as Beneficiaries and how that accountability can work against non-resident opportunity. A lot of the issues are lessened when we have more animals on the ground.

Yet, from when I examine the data from the content we produce, it shows that people have very little interest in investing their time on topics of habitat, conservation, and increased herds. That data also shows the audiences are far more engaged in arguing over allocation of the shrinking wild herds.

Again, maybe I'm just too far out in the weeds. It's my observation, maybe incorrectly, that we've created an environment among hunters where many hunters have resolved themselves to the notion of ever-decreasing herd sizes. That's a scarcity mindset we've created among our community. In business or society, when a scarcity mindset is present, it is instinctive for the members to focus more on what they can protect and preserve for their own, rather than focus on creating more of the scarce item. I think point schemes represent one of the most obvious examples that contribute to that mindset. But, those are not going away.

The challenge I pose to myself and our crew is this - how do we promote ideas that help us become more abundance thinkers and less scarcity thinkers? In other words, how do we help people advocate for bigger and better herds rather than spend their limited time/money/energy fighting harder to protect their share?

That might be a long diversion to the question you are asking. I see all of these topics interconnected. I can connect dots to all of them. The more politics poisons the system, the smaller the herds, or the more the herds get allocated to chosen classes. That leaves less for the non-chosen classes, creating more scarcity and making it harder to combat the scarcity thinking mindset.

When I connect the dots the opposite manner, by focusing energy on more habitat, larger herds, and less political poison, most the issues we argue about subside a lot. If we still had 600,000 pronghorn in Wyoming, would residents feel as much pressure to push for 90/10? And even if it went to 90/10, would 10% non-resident allocation at 600,000 pronghorn still be more/same tags than the current 80/20 with only 300,000 pronghorn? Same with Colorado mule deer and elk. Same with Nevada mule deer. Same with all of our species in many states.

I challenge myself as to ways I can show non-residents, and I'm a non-resident in all western states other than Montana, that my long-term opportunities are far higher if I put my energy into efforts that increase herds in those states I want to hunt as a non-resident. Whether the allocation is 10%, 20%, 25%, that non-resident percentage applied against a higher herd number is a far better outcome to me as a non-resident.

That's my way of connecting the realities of the Public Trust Doctrine and our state-based Trustee model to non-resident allocation. The Model has been successful in restoring herds to abundant levels. Now, we face many factors that have cause herds to decline, combined with explosive resident population growth, both putting a ton of pressure on non-resident allocations.

The solution is not to junk the NA Model, or let the Public Trust become the domain of political agents, or try to dismantle the state-based system that got us here. The solution, in my mind, is to keep these institutions intact and work toward putting more animals in the hills.

That's how 35 years of involvement in these issues leads me to believe, based on the context of what I see today.
 
Well said Randy. I want to be careful to distinguish between what I am seeing become a more common view on HT and other sites and your own personal opinion.

Hopefully I have shown that I respect you and value what you have created and stand for enough to get away with this… but I would like to pose a question that I would just ask that you consider. I don’t expect or really even want an answer:

You are a popular outdoor media personality running an outdoor content company whose existence (along with the livelihoods of people whom you care about deeply) depends upon sticking to the above beliefs. Do you think your perspective might change if you were (still) just an average working guy raising a family elsewhere who would just like to get out west once a year and have a decent hunt?
 
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You are popular outdoor media personality running an outdoor content company whose existence (along with the livelihoods of people whom you care about deeply) depends upon sticking to the above beliefs. Do you think your perspective might change if you were (still) just an average working guy raising a family elsewhere who would just like to get out west once a year and have a decent hunt?
Yes, absolutely my perspectives would be different. If I was living back in Big Falls Minnesota, say in a logging business with my brother, my perspectives would be way different than being a CPA who has lived in the west for 40 years.

I wouldn't have 30+ years of Trustee experience that gives me the perspectives I have on a state-based Trustee system for wildlife. My family wouldn't have taken 40% pay cuts to move to a western state, which in effect became the price tag for my resident elk license, and is a decision that vested me in hunting and access issues in a way I would not have otherwise been vested.

A life experience of not being a CPA, or not living in a western state, would likely have me wanting to satisfy/justify my perspectives slanted more towards non-residents' views. I would be frustrated that I couldn't hunt elk as often as I'd like or at the price I'd want. I'd express those frustrations through a different lens than I have now.

My life experiences give me a different context through which I view these issues today than if I'd not decided to move west. The life experiences of my midwest friends who didn't move west gives them a way different lens through which they view these same issues.

That's what I try to think about in our content and my advocacy. I get the comments many western residents say, somewhat smugly, "If you want these hunting opportunities, then take the pay cuts and move here." An option for sure, but that comment from us westerners doesn't change the life experiences or the realities of the person living in (insert state here) who is established in a life that is hard to uproot, and is a person I'm trying to encourage to be vested in conservation, access, and public land issues in the west.

I try to keep one foot in each side of the debate. Living here forms my perspectives as a 40-year resident of western states who makes the financial sacrifice to live where I can hunt elk every year. Living here and being engaged, there is seldom a week that I'm not volunteering or otherwise doing something that helps give voice to the wild things and wild places in my back yard, with the cumulative outcomes with many of my fellow residents being something that non-residents want to share in. It helps me understand why residents, including myself, feel vested in a state-based system and why we have incentive to keep that 180 year old system intact.

I keep another foot in the non-resident side by applying as a non-resident applicant in eight other states. That helps me see these issues in the same manner as if I hadn't left the Midwest at 19 years old.

What you've touched on is a big part of the challenge I've embraced with these platforms - Trying to show people who come to the topics with vast differences in life experiences, that create huge differences in perspectives on these topics, that we are all in this same boat together. From my life experiences that have formed my perspectives on such, I've arrived at the conclusion that our best collective destination is a path that puts more critters on the mountain and more access to them. No matter your residency, more critters and more access seems to be a better outcome.
 
I have to admit @Big Fin, mixed feelings reading that- but I get where you’re coming from.

I do really appreciate the honesty and taking the time for the discussion.
 
You're correct - not coincidence, for two reasons - 1) The political influence on wildlife is getting to a point that I'm trying to find ways to combat that, and 2) there are things coming down the pike that are big warning signs for me, coming from the groups who are leading the charge in WA and CO have developed their own concept of The Public Trust Doctrine and they are distributing it as the "accurate" version of the PTD. Suffice to say, it lacks a lot and is a far different version than what has been historically used as one of the tenets of the NAMWC.
More so than politicalization of commissions to me is the management of wildlife via ballot initiative. On the one hand I wouldn't want to take away the right of the people to directly develop and implement policy but the vast majority of the public are not qualified to make a good decision on a myriad of issues. Wolves to CO, no cougar hunting in some states, no trapping, no hound hunting, firearms restrictions and so on put on the ballot before an uniformed and emotional public. The majority of the beneficiaries to whom the wildlife belongs are not always good stewards of what they are entrusted with. Rarely are they.
 
More so than politicalization of commissions to me is the management of wildlife via ballot initiative. On the one hand I wouldn't want to take away the right of the people to directly develop and implement policy but the vast majority of the public are not qualified to make a good decision on a myriad of issues. Wolves to CO, no cougar hunting in some states, no trapping, no hound hunting, firearms restrictions and so on put on the ballot before an uniformed and emotional public. The majority of the beneficiaries to whom the wildlife belongs are not always good stewards of what they are entrusted with. Rarely are they.
I hate ballot box management.

But I don't think legislators managing wildlife is any better. Idaho has seen some dumbass bills come up in the last few sessions. Most proposed by cronies of either IOGA or the Ag lobby.
 
Each non-resident hunter brings in many fold the economic impact than a resident non-outfitted hunter does. The outfitter does not sit on the dollars he charges but it goes to the community he operates in. The costs of 40 horses, several vehicles, guides, cooks, groceries, fuel, Forest Service fees and so on go to the beneficiaries in jobs, taxes, direct and indirect $ to their pockets.
Businesses in those smaller communities often operate within small margins over the course of a year. Having an influx of non-local dollars is part of that equation to stay in business. Whether that be hunting season, a rodeo or whatever. The loss of a brick and mortar "business" due to the lack of those dollars is detrimental to the community as whole. The residents are then displaced so to speak and have to travel outside the community to conduct trade, educate their children and etc.
 
A few random thoughts:

1. Is >50% a high enough threshold for a ballot iniative?
2. As someone who has invested a lot of time and resources in growing the herds, habitat, and opportunity, I worry about our next generation of conservation leaders. Every group I talk to (maybe with the exception of BHA) really struggles with getting that 20-40 age group to be involved. I can only hope as they age they become more involved. A perfect example: we sold raffle tickets to build (buy) a wildlife management area open to the public at a major outdoor sports show. To try and get a 25 year old to buy a $2 or $5 ticket was really tough. Three minutes later, you see them drinking out of a Bladder Buster-sized soda they just spent $12 on.
3. We are going to need strong leadership moving forward. Where is it going to come from? As a hook and bullet community, how do we identify and grow them? Who is going to take on the conflicted (prejudiced?) wildlife trustees and win in the public arena? Right now Randy is the only one I am hearing that is doing something about it.
 
More so than politicalization of commissions to me is the management of wildlife via ballot initiative.
These are both dangerous, one leaves it to the popular vote which is very often uninformed and the other to a select group with nearly no accountability to do according to their agenda. Both of these are areas that require vigilance, extreme vigilance.
 
These are both dangerous, one leaves it to the popular vote which is very often uninformed and the other to a select group with nearly no accountability to do according to their agenda. Both of these are areas that require vigilance, extreme vigilance.
HOWL,
Have you attempted to get the WA candidates for governor to give on-the-record views of the structure and actions of the commission? I got a very encouraging response back from Mark Mullet and nothing from the other candidates. Unfortunately Mullet is far back in the race.
 

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