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Montana Elk Plan Public Scoping Meetings

Nameless Range

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Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will be hosting a series of public meetings this summer and fall to gather ideas about local elk management issues and population objectives.


FWP is hosting public meetings that are regional to very specific groups of hunting districts, and are a chance for the public to give input about how the new EMP should be implemented within those districts.

Yes, there is a strong case that FWP ignores public comment, but I still see utility in it. During the season settings and simplification meetings, I believe public comment made a difference. I know it did actually. In some of the districts I am familiar with, initial proposals at simplification were abandoned, and all that was needed was some public comment to point to to not implement those changes. FWP proposed such a large pile of chit that much of it flew past hunters, but I believe it was also the case that much of the changes that were abandoned flew by FWP. There's still a lot of great professionals there, who just need support.

I'll be attending a couple meetings for the districts I know well, and hope that if you have time you will do the same. So much hinges on this new FWP. BigFin has spoken in the past about how hunters didn't show up for the last one and got steamrolled. We are up against an even bigger challenge now, and now is not a time to succumb to yer inner negative nancy and throw in the towel.

We gotta show up!
 

Big Fin

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Thanks for posting this. There are a ton of meetings that you can pick from. And you can always do the email option. The importance of being there and being heard is paramount, no matter how busy we are or whatever our schedule is.
 

Nameless Range

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Went to the Helena Meeting last night about the Granite Butte and Deer Lodge EMU Districts. About 10 public and 7 FWP employees(bios, regional wildlife manager, State Elk Coordinator).

Some thoughts:
-The focus of these meetings is elk objectives. They really shied away from discussing different management "tools".
-It was proposed that perhaps objectives should be recalculated based on an average of the last 3,5,or 10 years. This was interesting to me and sure would alleviate the "over objective" status some places perpetually have. One of the worst things that can happen to a district is its acquisition of over objective status, which we must remember is a legal status, and I think we gotta pursue methods that keep objectives out of this status.
-It was discussed that objective could be a range, instead of a fixed number. I also like this.
-Managing at the EMU level (Elk Management Unit) as opposed to the district level was discussed. I don't like this, believe FWP needs to manage at a finer scale, and said so. I pointed out that in the Deer Lodge EMU, there are over twice as many hunter days ocurring on the landscape as there was only 15 years ago per FWPs data. The huntable acreage, if anything, has diminished. The new EMP must be nimble and scalpel-like for a booming Montana.
-They're not sure yet, but the lifespan of this Elk Plan will likely be in the 10-15 year range, and they will revisit it at smaller intervals.
-I brought up page 56 of the current EMP, and how elk that are inaccessible should not be counted to the objective total. I got the same response I always do that this is such a hard thing to quantify. I just don't know if that's exactly right. Was it not successfully used in the Bitterroot? I wanna know more about this.
-Unanimously essentially, everyone there said the objectives should be changed in the positive direction, and numerous people discussed that elk counted toward the objectives are often not available to hunters.
-As far as I know, not a single large landowner was there
-Different season styles were brought up by the public (pick weapon, more LE, first season-second season) We really didn't delve deep, because those are the tools the Elk Committee is discussing.
-They handed out 4 or 5 pieces of paper loaded with questions that they would appreciate input on that look like this. There are some insane questions on there like pushing the season 2 weeks further into December, but in general I appreciate the depth of questions they are asking.

IMG_2259.jpg IMG_2258.jpg


Ultimately, we gotta comment and show up. I cannot speak to all the districts of Montana and their bios and local dynamics, but I actually feel pretty confident that decision makers really just need and want reasons to do the right things where they can, and they will do their best to do so. The hunting public's silence will be a void filled by the voices of people who pull the levers. These are great opportunities and the meeting was more of a discussion and really was the best public FWP meeting I have attended. Call me a sucker.
 
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Nameless Range

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Interesting. It might explain the general conclusion that objectives need to go up.
At the season setting scoping meeting last fall there were two ranching landowners who showed up - one from the Elkhorns and one from the Belts. Both stated they thought there were too few elk on the landscape and that FWP's management was too liberal. Landowners aren't the monolith we are led to believe they are.
 

Nameless Range

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The ones who have Hank's ear are, and the past seems to indicate that their goals are the ones that get railroaded through. But I hope I'm wrong.

I don’t necessarily think you’re wrong. Like I said I could be a sucker, but one of the senses I get is that they are open to locally different elk management. Elk management in one EMU may be very different than elk management 300 miles away in another one.

The meeting last night was very pointed to local districts, which I liked because everyone there could actually speak to them. Spending two hours having a discussion about six districts is the type of detail I think is necessary as opposed to giant sweeping things happening all over the state. I definitely learned some things and recommend folks go to their local meetings
 

SAJ-99

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At the season setting scoping meeting last fall there were two ranching landowners who showed up - one from the Elkhorns and one from the Belts. Both stated they thought there were too few elk on the landscape and that FWP's management was too liberal. Landowners aren't the monolith we are led to believe they are.
I agree, and have said the same thing many times. But I think the % of hunters that think the objectives should go up is 100% while the % of landowners that think that they should is much less than 100%. Not 0%, so somewhere between 0 % and 99% :D I saw a quote from a landowner during the season-setting meeting that said they all agreed that no one wanted them to do down. I suspect because landowners have figured out that elk = $.

Edit: When I say "them to go down", them in this case was elk numbers, not objectives.
 

Ben Lamb

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There's a bit of a lull in these meetings until Mid-July. Then they're going to run through September.

Lots of time for folks to make their voices heard here.

Nice recap & thanks for being a voice of reason, Bret!
 

bigsky2

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I attended the meeting in Lewistown last night. There were probably 25 people in attendance, mostly sportsmen with a couple landowners mixed in. They said it was their best attended meeting other than Butte where they had 27 people show up. Last night's meeting was for 411, 412, and 535. We have a meeting covering the Breaks units on Thursday night.

Everyone who spoke up on objectives agreed that they need to be raised. It was brought up that when the new EMP is released, something needs to be put in place so it is revisited every 5 years or so, so we don't find ourselves in a similar situation as we have now with a 17 year old elk plan. Everyone seemed to agree that a lot has changed in 17 years and if we were able to somehow meet objectives then most people would think we don't have enough elk. It was pointed out that it has been proven that the districts have the habitat to provide for way more elk than what the objectives are. The biologists made the comment that they have never been asked by the department what the carrying capacities of the districts are based on habitat.

There was a lot of talk about never being able to get to objective without access to the elk on the ranches owned by billionaires. One local who has a small hand in management of the hunting on one of those ranches said the ranches don't allow access because of poor hunter behavior. I brought up the point that we will never get enough access to those ranches to do anything to get elk numbers down, and that we should stop letting the small minority of people affect how the entire district is managed. The majority of people who have elk permits are not fortunate enough to have access to private land, and increasing permits due to over objective elk just makes the experience worse for everyone who is trying to hunt on public. I said we should give the neighbors of those ranches all the tools they need to address elk problems but set permit numbers appropriately so that everyone hunting the other areas of the district can have a quality hunt. I pointed out that when I used to hunt the Gravellies I could be into elk more consistently than I currently do when I hunt my local districts that are 800% over objective.

The highlight of the night was when our local State Senator spoke up and said the federal government is mostly to blame for our elk issues, pointing out that they made it more difficult to access the river when the Missouri River Breaks Monument was established, putting horsepower restrictions on certain sections of the river, etc. He also praised the 454 program and said we are headed in the right direction because of the new leadership at FWP.
 

Ben Lamb

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That's great to hear on turnout. The Elk Coalition have been doing phone banking to help drive those numbers up.

It's also not surprising to hear the local Senator praise the Wilks or UPOM. He has carried their bills for the last couple of sessions.
 

shadowtracker

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I attended the meeting in Lewistown last night. There were probably 25 people in attendance, mostly sportsmen with a couple landowners mixed in. They said it was their best attended meeting other than Butte where they had 27 people show up. Last night's meeting was for 411, 412, and 535. We have a meeting covering the Breaks units on Thursday night.

Everyone who spoke up on objectives agreed that they need to be raised. It was brought up that when the new EMP is released, something needs to be put in place so it is revisited every 5 years or so, so we don't find ourselves in a similar situation as we have now with a 17 year old elk plan. Everyone seemed to agree that a lot has changed in 17 years and if we were able to somehow meet objectives then most people would think we don't have enough elk. It was pointed out that it has been proven that the districts have the habitat to provide for way more elk than what the objectives are. The biologists made the comment that they have never been asked by the department what the carrying capacities of the districts are based on habitat.

There was a lot of talk about never being able to get to objective without access to the elk on the ranches owned by billionaires. One local who has a small hand in management of the hunting on one of those ranches said the ranches don't allow access because of poor hunter behavior. I brought up the point that we will never get enough access to those ranches to do anything to get elk numbers down, and that we should stop letting the small minority of people affect how the entire district is managed. The majority of people who have elk permits are not fortunate enough to have access to private land, and increasing permits due to over objective elk just makes the experience worse for everyone who is trying to hunt on public. I said we should give the neighbors of those ranches all the tools they need to address elk problems but set permit numbers appropriately so that everyone hunting the other areas of the district can have a quality hunt. I pointed out that when I used to hunt the Gravellies I could be into elk more consistently than I currently do when I hunt my local districts that are 800% over objective.

The highlight of the night was when our local State Senator spoke up and said the federal government is mostly to blame for our elk issues, pointing out that they made it more difficult to access the river when the Missouri River Breaks Monument was established, putting horsepower restrictions on certain sections of the river, etc. He also praised the 454 program and said we are headed in the right direction because of the new leadership at FWP.
That’s good to hear about the turnout by hunters. Here in Ennis it was totally the opposite. Almost all ranchers with an agenda to eradicate as many Elk as possible in the Madison Valley. Some of the ideas floated were hard to listen to including helicopter shooting, birth control, unlimited b tags on both public and private, shoulder season and or a year long season and a few more that defy explanation.
 

bigsky2

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That’s good to hear about the turnout by hunters. Here in Ennis it was totally the opposite. Almost all ranchers with an agenda to eradicate as many Elk as possible in the Madison Valley. Some of the ideas floated were hard to listen to including helicopter shooting, birth control, unlimited b tags on both public and private, shoulder season and or a year long season and a few more that defy explanation.
Birth control! At least they’re thinking outside the box.
 

Eric Albus

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I don’t necessarily think you’re wrong. Like I said I could be a sucker, but one of the senses I get is that they are open to locally different elk management. Elk management in one EMU may be very different than elk management 300 miles away in another one.

The meeting last night was very pointed to local districts, which I liked because everyone there could actually speak to them. Spending two hours having a discussion about six districts is the type of detail I think is necessary as opposed to giant sweeping things happening all over the state. I definitely learned some things and recommend folks go to their local meetings
Ek management should be different area to area and region to region, as should deer. If I managed my cattle like a rancher from Dillon or Miles City…I’d be out of business.
 

Nameless Range

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Just got back from the scoping meetings in Boulder for HDs 350/370/380. This is just some rough highlights. I missed the first 45 minutes due to VFD duties.

About 16 members of the public. 2 bios, 2 wardens, and the Elk Planner.

Same theme as the others, chiefly revolving around the question of "How do we wanna set objective numbers"?

A quote from the Elkhorns biologist: "Some folks think landowners want less elk. I gotta lotta landowners who want more elk."

There was a short but good discussion brought up by an attendee that the elk plan should acknowledge the effecto fo the management of land agencies and the quality of habitat on elk distribution.

350 and 370 are in the Highlands EMU. The biologist wants them outta there because that doesnt make sense.

350 and 370 were destined to be one superdistrict in the "simplification" effort. The COMMENTS MADE A DIFFERENCE.

I got on my soapbox about the status of over objective being a poison pill for an HD and how we should push for higher objectives to protect districts from hamfisted management that may take years to recover from, which is the case in 350 (More elk killed in 2015 than were counted in the whole district 4 out of the next 5 years.). The crowd mostly agreed.

When the time comes to start crafting your comments, which is now, they are gonna take time. This plan is comprehensive as hell. One thing I am realizing is it is personally gonna take me hours to say what I think I wanna say, but then again I am a wordy bastard.

There was a lot specific stuff, and numbers and such, but those are the high level things I wrote down.

I had a great talk with the biologist after the meeting. We really do have some fantastic professionals who need our support. I can't stress it enough. We gotta give them the best reasons we can come up with to manage elk better. They want them!
 

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