Yeti

Montana FWP makes seismic shift in elk permits

Ben Lamb

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There's truth to both the issue of complaints & not solutions as well as the BS call.

Sportsmen have been presenting solutions to the agency for a long time. Their frustration is that they weren't listened too, and were actively being attacked by other groups & even within the agency.

Landowners feel like they've been presenting solutions, but nobody is willing to agree with them, including hunters & the agency.

We've hit a stupid stalemate that was made worse by the actions of the DO to increase conflict rather than calmly resolve it through open communication.

We can either continue to beat the shit out of each other for what's happened, or we can put down our fists and start to talk to each other in a less emotionally charged way. I admit my failures in that regard and am trying to do better, and more importantly, to understand the other side of this equation.

So there are solutions out there that need to be vetted. The best ones I've heard so far are:

1.) Whole herd management, not just individual ranch management (Craig Jourdonnais did this in the Madison and was largely successful)
2.) Reform Block Management to make it more about hunter success and less about just access. That doesn't mean getting rid of type 1 or type 2, but it could mean a type 3.
3.) Bring about better hunter behavior on private land. This could mean reinstating only in-person Hunter Ed. I wonder if our rush to implement R3 means we're giving up on the ethical education of new hunters or the continuing education of existing hunters.
4.) Increase cash going out to participating landowners. This is the core issue of transferable licenses or increased Block Management Payments, leases, etc. MT has for decades said that they don't pay for access, they pay for impacts. That's semantics that are designed to make people feel better about paying cash for access.
5.) Better hunter pressure distribution through thoughtful implementation of hunting regulations and season structure.
6.) Damage program for landowners who are actively engaged in solving depredation issues at the herd level. To be funded out of the general fund and not sportsmen dollars.

Friends whom I greatly respect have pointed out that Montana is already giving out landowner tags and not really getting anything out of it. It hit like a cement block to the forehead. Between the 454 program, landowner preference, landowner deer set-asides, etc, he's right. Other states like Nevada have done better in getting concessions for hunters than states like UT or CO. I continue to think that transferable tags are a bad option due to the mission creep we've seen in states like CO & UT, but I also am not so bold as to think that those states can't help inform our decisions.

These season setting tentatives were designed to be conflict-laden. That's a failure of leadership. If it's a political ploy to show one side that they're no longer the favored voice, then it's a failure to understand how frustrated the hunting community is with how big game management is handled by Helena and it's virtue signaling to those who feel as though they are in charge now, with no real benefit to solving problems.
 

Ben Lamb

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SAJ-99

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Agree with all the above. My conversations with the Director are very much in this line. With the exception of a few (including @Big Fin ) my conversations with sportsmen have been almost all in the complaint side and strikingly little in the solutions side. The result is one side frustrated with the direction taken and the other pushing ahead with ideas offered (if mostly theirs). Region 2 season setting comments are a good example of this. Prior to Mike Thompson's retirement, I asked him if there were more or less comments thus far in relation to past season setting periods. He said it was up, but just barely.

It is important for all sides to be involved, collaborating, and genuinely working towards solutions. Nearly all the meetings I attend with FWP and public comment is asked for, there isn't any. You don't have to be in appointed position to have impact. You do need to know who is sitting at the table and how to communicate effectively with them.
Because those are the Director's talking points. He and his supporters just keep repeating them - over and over. They are not solutions. Giving landowners the ability to kill Bull elk does not change elk numbers. There have been alternative solutions proposed. The problem is that hunters can't negotiate. They have no representative to speak collectively for them. That is not the case for other participants. The fact is FWP doesn't want to listen or engage in alternative ideas. Particularly if those ideas don't meet the primary goal of getting NR landowners general tags.
 

Ben Lamb

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Because those are the Director's talking points. He and his supporters just keep repeating them - over and over. They are not solutions. Giving landowners the ability to kill Bull elk does not change elk numbers. There have been alternative solutions proposed. The problem is that hunters can't negotiate. They have no representative to speak collectively for them. That is not the case for other participants. The fact is FWP doesn't want to listen or engage in alternative ideas. Particularly if those ideas don't meet the primary goal of getting NR landowners general tags.

In case folks are wondering what some solutions that the hunting community has brought forward over the past few years relative to elk management:

1.) Hunters have been supporting changes since the 2008 LE bundled permits were brought in to try and restore a quality hunt experience & restore the 90/10 split. They've been playing defense on that since then, with something like 7-8 bills to eliminate those LE permits since 2009. Those bills were brought by one of the new members of PLPW - Paul Ellis.

2.) Hunters have pushed for the increase in block management payments, often times being told no by the Legislature who didn't want to spend the money out of a dogmatic approach to government spending on the whole. This anti-gov't approach also left the agency without key personnel as there was a mandatory 4% vacancy savings since 2009, which has resulted in fewer employees than necessary to effectively do the work.

3.) Hunters wrote & pushed the PAL act forward, despite having concerns about redundancy and other issues, because landowners said they they think that it could be useful.

4.) Hunters pushed for legislation to deal with harboring. it didn't make it out of committee due to partisan politics.

5.) Hunters worked with their local biologists and landowners to find better solutions in places like R2, 3 & 4. I'm not as familiar with 5,6,7 efforts, but assume they exist.

6.) Hunters have repeatedly called for implementation of cow only seasons in over objective districts.

7.) Hunters have repeatedly called for implementing the EMP as written and use Page 55 to exclude elk that are known to primarily live on private land from the objective.

8.) Hunters have consistently called for a new EMP, fought for the funding for the EMP planner in 2019, and had to push the agency into doing the work.

9.) Hunters and a whole host of other groups called on the Legislature to fund a position at DNRC that could help ensure that state trust land travel management had a modern approach, versus the old way. it died in committee on a party line vote.

10.) Hunters have repeatedly called for looking at season structure and see if what we're doing continues to make sense.

11.) Hunters were wildly supportive of a type III block management right up until there were transferable licenses inserted into the bill. That activity caused hunters to abandon their support, and the bill died.

There has been a lot of activity relative to this, and while the hunting community can always do better, it is untrue that they haven't advanced ideas. It is true that we have spent a decade fighting each other to a standstill, and when we add the legislative activity of over 400 bills in just a decade on wildlife management, the majority of those being bills NOT brought forward by hunters, because our bills continue to be killed in committee on party line votes, I think there's a far more complex picture that emerges than simply "hunters aren't offering solutions."
 

Ben Lamb

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Forgot a few:

12.) Hunters led the fight to save Habitat Montana from UPOM's attempted gutting in 2015, which lead to the development of the MT Sporting Coalition, and a massive increase in support for the program which has been used to fund new WMA's, specifically for elk to use as wintering ground and to help private landowners escape depredation issues by having a space for wildlife to winter.

13.) Hunters have routinely supported increased license fees with more funding goin in to the programs landowners use.

14.) Hunters helped ensure that the legislature didn't steal money from the weed tax for purposes other than what the voters had said they wanted it for, namely conservation. That influx of funding will help the agency combat increasing issues like CWD, habitat conservation and non-game funding, which in turn improves budget outlooks for every other General License Account fund that is tied to those core areas.

15.) Hunters and Anglers helped stop the hemorrhaging of the FWP & DNRC budgets through their lobby efforts back to 2015 and more, which theoretically gave the agency the ability to do the work necessary to move the issue forward. (Thank Montana TU for the heaviest lifting here)

16.) Hunters have been part of the reason the Good Neighbor Authority projects are being implemented across MT in order to improve elk habitat n public land, while also improving fire resiliency for forest communities.
 

Wind Gypsy

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Come up with solutions rather than complaints.

My best guess is that the drastic changes suggested to elk hunting was just a way to get people to start thinking about what changes are needed.

If we leave seasons status quo that are not working, expecting them to suddenly start, is by definition insanity.

Did you give Hank your log in or just decide to use up all of his talking points in a single post?
 

Unlucky

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Maybe everyone should just be honest about public lands. Hunted to oblivion. Not management. Alot of public land void of game. Mule deer should thrive in along with elk. Chitty management. But with that said private has saved many elk and deer. Prob why a few mulies and good bulls around. Can we work together.
 

rogerthat

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In case folks are wondering what some solutions that the hunting community has brought forward over the past few years relative to elk management:

1.) Hunters have been supporting changes since the 2008 LE bundled permits were brought in to try and restore a quality hunt experience & restore the 90/10 split. They've been playing defense on that since then, with something like 7-8 bills to eliminate those LE permits since 2009. Those bills were brought by one of the new members of PLPW - Paul Ellis.

2.) Hunters have pushed for the increase in block management payments, often times being told no by the Legislature who didn't want to spend the money out of a dogmatic approach to government spending on the whole. This anti-gov't approach also left the agency without key personnel as there was a mandatory 4% vacancy savings since 2009, which has resulted in fewer employees than necessary to effectively do the work.

3.) Hunters wrote & pushed the PAL act forward, despite having concerns about redundancy and other issues, because landowners said they they think that it could be useful.

4.) Hunters pushed for legislation to deal with harboring. it didn't make it out of committee due to partisan politics.

5.) Hunters worked with their local biologists and landowners to find better solutions in places like R2, 3 & 4. I'm not as familiar with 5,6,7 efforts, but assume they exist.

6.) Hunters have repeatedly called for implementation of cow only seasons in over objective districts.

7.) Hunters have repeatedly called for implementing the EMP as written and use Page 55 to exclude elk that are known to primarily live on private land from the objective.

8.) Hunters have consistently called for a new EMP, fought for the funding for the EMP planner in 2019, and had to push the agency into doing the work.

9.) Hunters and a whole host of other groups called on the Legislature to fund a position at DNRC that could help ensure that state trust land travel management had a modern approach, versus the old way. it died in committee on a party line vote.

10.) Hunters have repeatedly called for looking at season structure and see if what we're doing continues to make sense.

11.) Hunters were wildly supportive of a type III block management right up until there were transferable licenses inserted into the bill. That activity caused hunters to abandon their support, and the bill died.

There has been a lot of activity relative to this, and while the hunting community can always do better, it is untrue that they haven't advanced ideas. It is true that we have spent a decade fighting each other to a standstill, and when we add the legislative activity of over 400 bills in just a decade on wildlife management, the majority of those being bills NOT brought forward by hunters, because our bills continue to be killed in committee on party line votes, I think there's a far more complex picture that emerges than simply "hunters aren't offering solutions."
One thing I have been mulling over in my head, is where else is the customer (hunters) asked to come up with solutions? What do you employ professionals for? I am an engineer by trade. I would never tell the customer they need to come up with solutions. Provide feedback? Absolutely. But ultimately it’s my job to correctly size that beam or column. And there is a dang good reason for this. That whole line “hunters don’t come up with solutions” which is a false statement, but I got to ask why should we? That’s why we have fwp staff employed isn’t it? They proposed solutions in their justifications. This is a simple failure of leadership. So when the statement “hunters don’t come up with solutions” is stated I got to ask, should we?
 

Ben Lamb

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One thing I have been mulling over in my head, is where else is the customer (hunters) asked to come up with solutions? What do you employ professionals for? I am an engineer by trade. I would never tell the customer they need to come up with solutions. Provide feedback? Absolutely. But ultimately it’s my job to correctly size that beam or column. And there is a dang good reason for this. That whole line “hunters don’t come up with solutions” which is a false statement, but I got to ask why should we? That’s why we have fwp staff employed isn’t it? They proposed solutions in their justifications. This is a simple failure of leadership. So when the statement “hunters don’t come up with solutions” is stated I got to ask, should we?

Generally, it's a political tactic used to take attention away from unpopular choices made by those with the authority to do so. Many well intentioned people who don't have the perspective or history on the issue that others have then take that up and repeat it because it strikes at the core of the issue: We should all work together, but we're not.

I do think though, that it is incumbent upon citizens to come up with solutions. We are the end beneficiary of the resource and we have the people on the ground to enact bold new programs, but unless the public demands it, then the standard operating procedure of politics is to dance with who brung ya.

So either we buck up and do the work, or others will do it for us.
 

rogerthat

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Generally, it's a political tactic used to take attention away from unpopular choices made by those with the authority to do so. Many well intentioned people who don't have the perspective or history on the issue that others have then take that up and repeat it because it strikes at the core of the issue: We should all work together, but we're not.

I do think though, that it is incumbent upon citizens to come up with solutions though. We are the end beneficiary of the resource and we have the people on the ground to enact bold new programs, but unless the public demands it, then the standard operating procedure of politics is to dance with who brung ya.

So either we buck up and do the work, or others will do it for us.
Well I think it might be a miscalculation on GG and Worsechs part since a poor conservative hunter has one vote all the same as Farris Wilkes has one vote. I know of about 10 people that are mad enough right now they are saying they will never vote for GG again just based off this FWP season setting process. I am finishing up my comments today and my next email is to the governor to let him know this exact thing. Doubt he cares but maybe I will feel better. 😂
 

Ben Lamb

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Well I think it might be a miscalculation on GG and Worsechs part since a poor conservative hunter has one vote all the same as Farris Wilkes has one vote. I know of about 10 people that are mad enough right now they are saying they will never vote for GG again just based off this FWP season setting process. I am finishing up my comments today and my next email is to the governor to let him know this exact thing. Doubt he cares but maybe I will feel better. 😂

We've heard that the Gov is getting concerned about the amount of letters like this he's been receiving, and even has dispatched the Director's office to meet with individuals to try and stop the loss. So you may get a call from the agency or the Gov's office.

As always, be polite, kind and thoughtful, but don't be bullied.
 
Last edited:

BuzzH

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Generally, it's a political tactic used to take attention away from unpopular choices made by those with the authority to do so. Many well intentioned people who don't have the perspective or history on the issue that others have then take that up and repeat it because it strikes at the core of the issue: We should all work together, but we're not.

I do think though, that it is incumbent upon citizens to come up with solutions. We are the end beneficiary of the resource and we have the people on the ground to enact bold new programs, but unless the public demands it, then the standard operating procedure of politics is to dance with who brung ya.

So either we buck up and do the work, or others will do it for us.
Ben,

I think rogerthat, brought up a key piece...we do need to have the biologists working in cooperation with the public. But, ultimately lets not forget that hardly any of the "public" has grasped basic biology issues with regard to game management. Very few have any formal training, and I would agree with rogerthat, with gusto, that is what WE pay them for. If your contention is that the average joe hunters have to pay for biologists, and do all the thinking and come up with the solutions...we may be less happy with the "solutions" of joe average hunter, than what's being pumped out of the Governors office. We have to support the local PROFESSIONALS to come up with solutions, that the public should be introduced to and provide feedback to. I've met few biologists that weren't willing to listen to legitimate concerns about making adjustments to management decisions. I've also met very biologists willing to put their careers on the line when the word came from the top..."you WILL do this".

Secondly, there really is no reason for the biologists or joe average to come up with any solutions, when they aren't allowed to implement them.

The leadership and brain trust of FWP (Worsech) and the GG administration are not going to allow any control be given to the local joe average hunter OR the biologists.

For what you're proposing to work, you must have the Governors office and Director on board to allow that partnership between the FWP and joe average to happen. In other words, they would have to stay out of it...and that isn't going to happen, period.

Do you really think that's going to happen under GG and Worsech? NO way...NO way. All the letters in the world won't change the top down decision making that is happening right now.

Only way is to throw the bums out...and start over.
 

Ben Lamb

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Ben,

I think rogerthat, brought up a key piece...we do need to have the biologists working in cooperation with the public. But, ultimately lets not forget that hardly any of the "public" has grasped basic biology issues with regard to game management. Very few have any formal training, and I would agree with rogerthat, with gusto, that is what WE pay them for. If your contention is that the average joe hunters have to pay for biologists, and do all the thinking and come up with the solutions...we may be less happy with the "solutions" of joe average hunter, than what's being pumped out of the Governors office. We have to support the local PROFESSIONALS to come up with solutions, that the public should be introduced to and provide feedback to. I've met few biologists that weren't willing to listen to legitimate concerns about making adjustments to management decisions. I've also met very biologists willing to put their careers on the line when the word came from the top..."you WILL do this".

Secondly, there really is no reason for the biologists or joe average to come up with any solutions, when they aren't allowed to implement them.

The leadership and brain trust of FWP (Worsech) and the GG administration are not going to allow any control be given to the local joe average hunter OR the biologists.

For what you're proposing to work, you must have the Governors office and Director on board to allow that partnership between the FWP and joe average to happen. In other words, they would have to stay out of it...and that isn't going to happen, period.

Do you really think that's going to happen under GG and Worsech? NO way...NO way. All the letters in the world won't change the top down decision making that is happening right now.

Only way is to throw the bums out...and start over.

These folks are in power for the next 3 years and the legislature is not going to flip to Dems in the next generation. To ignore them rather than try to work with them ensures the worst outcomes.
 

BuzzH

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These folks are in power for the next 3 years and the legislature is not going to flip to Dems in the next generation. To ignore them rather than try to work with them ensures the worst outcomes.
Right, so in the next 3 years I'd probably not worry about talking much with my local biologist about coming up with solutions. The ones that haven't retired early, quit, or have been fired will probably just hand you GG's talking points.

There may be solutions to be had, but they aren't going to be coming from joe average and biologists sharing a coffee...just sayin'.
 

bullbugle307

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Don't wanna derail, but has anyone ever proposed something like Nebraskas free any elk permit for landowners? I just saw it on their website and I immediately thought about Montana when I read it.

Theyre giving 1 free any elk permit to landowners/lessees after verification of 10 antlerless harvests on a property. Other interesting highlights are the any elk tag is only valid on the property where the cows were shot, and landowner tags didn't count towards the 10 verified antlerless elk harvested.

Seems like it could be tied in with a public access component on the antlerless elk harvest and offer some kind of compromise for what sportsman and landowners want.
 

Fire_9

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Lewistown, MT
Don't wanna derail, but has anyone ever proposed something like Nebraskas free any elk permit for landowners? I just saw it on their website and I immediately thought about Montana when I read it.

Theyre giving 1 free any elk permit to landowners/lessees after verification of 10 antlerless harvests on a property. Other interesting highlights are the any elk tag is only valid on the property where the cows were shot, and landowner tags didn't count towards the 10 verified antlerless elk harvested.

Seems like it could be tied in with a public access component on the antlerless elk harvest and offer some kind of compromise for what sportsman and landowners want.
I believe that’s what the state has tried to accomplish with their 454 tags. That offer bulls tags to the land owner in exchange for a certain number of public hunters
 

bullbugle307

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I believe that’s what the state has tried to accomplish with their 454 tags. That offer bulls tags to the land owner in exchange for a certain number of public hunters
I figured there would be something along those lines proposed. I like it being tied to harvest in NE, and ideally access elsewhere.
 

Ben Lamb

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I figured there would be something along those lines proposed. I like it being tied to harvest in NE, and ideally access elsewhere.

The 454 program has been abused this time around due to a change in the statute, but exacerbated by the director's office who didn't bother to negotiate these agreements, and pretty much did what the large landowners asked. There really does need to be reform of this statute so that the program can work better for all involved.
 

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