AMK Sportsman

FWP Proposed Changes - 2021 Season Setting

brocksw

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And again and most importantly, elk as a political weapon wasn't a thing until around 2008 & the 23 limited entry permit bundled districts in the Breaks. That took away a massive cash cow from landowners & outfitters who had control, in some districts, of 90% of the bull harvest. Only then did the objectives become an issue for some and that's when we saw the rise of groups like UPOM who spend their time, money and energy working to eliminate public hunting opportunities in favor of landowner/outfitters owning it all.

As to the issue of dissolving the commission, I would disagree. Commissions are still viable tools to ensure the best management oversight. Some Governors will be political in whom they appoint. Gianforte virtue signaled his politics loud & clear with Robinson (UPOM supporter), Cebull (oil and gas industry) & Tabor (Outfitters). I still think KC Walsh is a good person and can become a solid commissioner, but folks will need to work with him to help him understand the issues at play, and what honest solutions look like.

This isn't to say that Bullock or Schweitzer were nonpartsian peaches, as I long felt the commission was not a priority until it was time to fill a seat and then there was a mad scramble to find someone "appropriate" to ensure the Governor got what he wanted. But as far as commissions being appropriate oversight, it worked well for darned near 100 years, and if we hold our elected officials accountable for these decisions, then it can work again. Balance is never easy to make happen, and this commission is tilted against the DIY hunter who doesn't own a few sections to be sure, but it's not a reason to abandon a successful model.
But elk are a political weapon, and in these hyper partisan times I don't see that changing unless more equitable or balanced, bipartisan solutions are presented and used. Even then....
But all it takes is another organized landowner movement, the right Governor with the appropriate timing, and a controlling portion of those commission seats are flipped, add in another Worsech type appointment and all that potentially great work could be undone. We already know that the side that wants to exploit, monetize, exterminate elk are willing to say or do whatever they can to get what they want, only to come back a little while later and move the goal posts again (see shoulder seasons). Why make it easy? That commission is the easiest body for them to control and they can actually get on the commission if they know the right people. Chuck and the likes have very little chance of becoming an influential bio for big game management within the FWP....and that's where the decision making should rest.

At another time, with a different political environment I'd say there might be hope for that commission. I just don't see it now. Even if they next Governor doesn't turn it into a political arm, the one after him/her can do so easily. Montana can't afford to keep chasing its tail on these issues. A political body with self-interest and industry interest on a contentious and popular public resource is a recipe for disaster.
 

Gerald Martin

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Here's what I think needs to happen in Montana.

Its always best to start at the start and I would say the single most important thing is to establish REAL herd objectives based on science rather than social tolerance of elk. Without that piece, the rest really doesn't matter.

That would be a science based solution. It would also be a political solution since the MT legislature mandates that FWP sets seasons with the goal of reducing elk numbers to “objective”.

Current “Objective” is an arbitrary number without documentation or defensible data.

Herd health in the form of bull/cow ratios and cow/calf ratios from actual counts is a forgotten inconvenience for FWP.

I watched the bull/cow ratio of unit 121 go from 16-18/100 back in the early 2000’s to 6-8/100 today. That includes the spikes that weren’t legal the prior hunting season.

If I or the sub-contractors I hire built houses the way that the legislature and FWP manage wildlife in MT I would have been fired or forced into bankruptcy because of all the lawsuits.
 

brocksw

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Its always best to start at the start and I would say the single most important thing is to establish REAL herd objectives based on science rather than social tolerance of elk. Without that piece, the rest really doesn't matter.
This is foundational to me. How can a department charged with managing a population of anything, not first go out and figure out how many there are so they can track that over time? Then figure out what maximum capacity for the landscape is, identify any problem or at risk populations, what's causing those problems, etc...

If I were to go tell my 11 year old, with no wildlife biology degree, that he has to manage the Richardson's Ground Squirrels out behind our house for sustainability...I can guarantee the first conclusion he'll arrive at is that he should probably go figure out how many there are.
 

BuzzH

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Laramie, WY
I'm sure there are spots that have those issues, but the combination of feedgrounds unnaturally concentrating animals away from private land on the western side of the state & damage payments make it less of an issue, as does season structure.

There's a significant factor in landownership as well. Wyoming is a split state, 50% public, 50% private. MT is at 70% private and 30% public.

And again and most importantly, elk as a political weapon wasn't a thing until around 2008 & the 23 limited entry permit bundled districts in the Breaks. That took away a massive cash cow from landowners & outfitters who had control, in some districts, of 90% of the bull harvest. Only then did the objectives become an issue for some and that's when we saw the rise of groups like UPOM who spend their time, money and energy working to eliminate public hunting opportunities in favor of landowner/outfitters owning it all.

Wyoming never had that happen.

Perhaps the biggest reason is that WGFD isn't held hostage by the legislature for their budget. The department crafts the budget and the Commission approves, modifies or disapproves it. The Legislature only has oversight of the general fund dollars that are going to the agency. That level of political isolation helps ensure better, more equitable outcomes.

As to the issue of dissolving the commission, I would disagree. Commissions are still viable tools to ensure the best management oversight. Some Governors will be political in whom they appoint. Gianforte virtue signaled his politics loud & clear with Robinson (UPOM supporter), Cebull (oil and gas industry) & Tabor (Outfitters). I still think KC Walsh is a good person and can become a solid commissioner, but folks will need to work with him to help him understand the issues at play, and what honest solutions look like.

This isn't to say that Bullock or Schweitzer were nonpartsian peaches, as I long felt the commission was not a priority until it was time to fill a seat and then there was a mad scramble to find someone "appropriate" to ensure the Governor got what he wanted. But as far as commissions being appropriate oversight, it worked well for darned near 100 years, and if we hold our elected officials accountable for these decisions, then it can work again. Balance is never easy to make happen, and this commission is tilted against the DIY hunter who doesn't own a few sections to be sure, but it's not a reason to abandon a successful model.
Just for clarification, the Legislature stripped 100% of the general funding from the Department about 6 years ago. WYGF is 100% self funded, which, IMO is starting to cause some problems that I won't go into.
 

MTGomer

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MT —> AZ
Look at how Arizona does their seasons. Odds are tough because
1. Sept. 1-30 archery season, no more archery season in October.

2. Rifle general elk from Oct 15-Oct 31 in most of the state for bulls, maybe some adjustments over time to ensure elk harvest in some areas.


I really like this. Every mountain unit, or unit where elk locations and patterns are dictated by time of year and weather, you could add a small handful of special permit mid to late November tags like 5 to 25 and every unit would have as good of hunting as units like 380 have right now.
 

brocksw

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So far there seems to be a consensus on changing season structure to a more controlled format and starting over with population objectives.

I have not seen solutions to dealing with the elk landowner conflict in MT.
I just called in a request into the FWP to get as much info as I could on the FWP's dealings with elk/landowner conflict. This would included how much and what the department is spending on this issue and any locational data they have as to where these conflicts are occuring. This might require a public information request so we'll see how this plays out.
 

Ben Lamb

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So far there seems to be a consensus on changing season structure to a more controlled format and starting over with population objectives.

I have not seen solutions to dealing with the elk landowner conflict in MT.
I just called in a request into the FWP to get as much info as I could on the FWP's dealings with elk/landowner conflict. This would included how much and what the department is spending on this issue and any locational data they have as to where these conflicts are occuring. This might require a public information request so we'll see how this plays out.

Good for grabbing the public data.

Here's the current programs for landowners: https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/landowner-programs

I think there's merit in allowing for a type 3 block management based on harvest rather than hunter days, and I'm not 100% against game damage payments out of the general fund for landowners who are legitimately dealing with over-abundance issues and have exhausted other methods.

There is still the 500 pound gorilla in the room of landowners not pushing other landowners to help be a part of the solution, rather than simply deferring to those who harbor elk. Until there is some peer to peer pressure, nothing much will happen on over-abundance.
 
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antlerradar

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There is still the 500 pound gorilla in the room of landowners not pushing other landowners to help be a part of the solution, rather than simply deferring to those who harbor elk. Until there is some peer to peer pressure, nothing much will happen on over-abundance.
Tough to put peer pressure on some one that lives in another state or country and is not all that interested in becoming part of the community.
 

brocksw

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Good for grabbing the public data.

Here's the current programs for landowners: https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/landowner-programs

I think there's merit in allowing for a type 3 block management based on harvest rather than hunter days, and I'm not 100% against game damage payments out of the general fund for landowners who are legitimately dealing with over-abundance issues and have exhausted other methods.

There is still the 500 pound gorilla in the room of landowners not pushing other landowners to help be a part of the solution, rather than simply deferring to those who harbor elk. Until there is some peer to peer pressure, nothing much will happen on over-abundance.
Perhaps there's 2 gorillas? The other representing FWP accountability? 90%+ of the public comments were not in support of extending shoulder seasons to public lands. Yet the commission and the FWP are not held accountable for going against the public and their resource. In addition, they are not being held accountable for moving the goal posts. The shoulder seasons started out as a tool to keep elk off private land. Why are they not being put on display for questioning as to why this is? Has any statement been made from the commission about the success or failures of the original shoulder season? The FWP should have to answer for the results of the original shoulder season and include public comment on how to move forward if the results werent satisfactory.

To me eliminating the commission would help with this.
 

Ben Lamb

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Tough to put peer pressure on some one that lives in another state or country and is not all that interested in becoming part of the community.

It's the toughest part of this puzzle. Every effort to fix it has been shot down or the agency has been threatened if they implement the EMP. But until it is fixed, I don't know you get to a place that helps landowners who are being impacted.

Im certainly open to ideas on how to change this, because those elk are headed to those sanctuaries regardless of public land shoulder seasons or not.
 

Gerald Martin

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Tough to put peer pressure on some one that lives in another state or country and is not all that interested in becoming part of the community.
Then perhaps it’s time some responsible people do the right thing and deliver the hard news that it’s not right to destroy public hunting in ways that won’t solve landowners problems just to uphold the image that something is being done.
 

Straight Arrow

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Gallatin Gateway, MT
To me eliminating the commission would help with this.
Then the decisions would all be determined by the legislature ... Fish & Game committees would set seasons, quotas, shoulder seasons, and on and on ... exacerbating the legislative wildlife management. We need a strong pro wildlife and pro hunting commission. Elimination would be a terrible mistake, IMO.
 

neffa3

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Just a side thought. You guys don't necessarily need to push for the removal of social tolerance considerations, but simply a more democratic tabulation. Every person's opinion counts the same. Joe Schmoe hunter is the same as Richy McRich landowner.
 

Dakotakid

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I am hearing that there are a 1000 head of elk on a ranchers irrigated field in the breaks .
The landowner has supported hunting for years even though most other ranchers are outfitted.
the only green grass in the country is on the river.

getting hammered by that many elk is turning landowners against sportsman.
 

brocksw

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Then the decisions would all be determined by the legislature ... Fish & Game committees would set seasons, quotas, shoulder seasons, and on and on ... exacerbating the legislative wildlife management. We need a strong pro wildlife and pro hunting commission. Elimination would be a terrible mistake, IMO.
In ND the Department sets everything with no commission and no input from the legislature on season dates, quotas, etc... Why would this not work in MT?
 

brocksw

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I am hearing that there are a 1000 head of elk on a ranchers irrigated field in the breaks .
The landowner has supported hunting for years even though most other ranchers are outfitted.
the only green grass in the country is on the river.

getting hammered by that many elk is turning landowners against sportsman.
But is it actually true?

If so....What is the FWP's ability to pay for damages and how are they assessed? Is it fair and just compensation? Is that supported by sportsmen? How has he supported hunting? Is he letting hunters on his land to hunt those elk? What methods if any have been taken in the past to protect his irrigated fields?
 

brocksw

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FWP/Montana does not reimburse for standing crop damage or range capacity losses. Maybe it’s time to revisit this.
Raise resident elk tag prices to 100 bucks and all of that additional money can go to a restitution fund?

Trying to think outside the box here and spitballing. Is there a way the FWP can contract problem tracts of land to just leave those crops/alf alfa in the ground for the elk to eat? Pay the rancher the market rate and he doesn't even have to harvest it or take it to the elevator. I'm not sure if that's identical to the Wy feedlots?
 

Ben Lamb

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Raise resident elk tag prices to 100 bucks and all of that additional money can go to a restitution fund?

Trying to think outside the box here and spitballing. Is there a way the FWP can contract problem tracts of land to just leave those crops/alf alfa in the ground for the elk to eat? Pay the rancher the market rate and he doesn't even have to harvest it or take it to the elevator. I'm not sure if that's identical to the Wy feedlots?

General fund money.

It's not hunters who are causing ng the issue. It's neighboring landowners & agency directives relative to shoulder seasons, etc.

The landowner can have fencing, hazing and early season damage hunts currently. But I think it takes the agency to really work with folks and sometimes that doesn't happen. Adding some regional wildlife conflict specialists & increasing staff for wildlife technicians would be helpful here.
 

brocksw

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General fund money.

It's not hunters who are causing ng the issue. It's neighboring landowners & agency directives relative to shoulder seasons, etc.

The landowner can have fencing, hazing and early season damage hunts currently. But I think it takes the agency to really work with folks and sometimes that doesn't happen. Adding some regional wildlife conflict specialists & increasing staff for wildlife technicians would be helpful here.
IMO, using General fund money would just pollute this process. Any power the legislature has over anything to do with funds allocated to wildlife, sooner or late would be corrupted. One landowner gets on the legislature, and him and his buddies decide they don't get enough money or that the money should have certain provisions that are advantageous to them, or that any amount of damage over a certain dollar amount and that landowner and his son, brother, uncle, cousin, should get a free transferable bull tag.

Keep wildlife business out of the legislature. I am uncertain as to why anyone thinks that is an answer to any of these problems. Especially in MT when this year the legislature was the source of almost ALL the problems.
 
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