Over the last 20 years,
the face of hunting and fishing in Montana has changed
substantially. Ranches in Montana are no longer bought by
Montanans, but instead by large out-of-state interests, wolves
have been introduced onto the landscape, legislation has been
enacted requiring big game population objectives be set at
artificially low numbers, FWP has been charged with management
of an increasing number of non-game non-huntable species without
additional revenue sources to fund that charge, legislators
with little to no knowledge of hunting and fishing issues
are voting in new laws without understanding their impact
on the Montana resident hunter and angler, and maybe most
importantly, landowners and sportsmen and women no longer
are the friends and allies that they once were.
The challenge facing Montana
hunters and anglers today is “how do we preserve the
Montana hunting and fishing heritage?” The unprecedented
onslaught of anti-hunter, anti-angler, anti-FWP bills in previous
legislatures galvanized people from across the state, which
led sportsmen to organize in a grassroots effort to defeat
most of those attacks on Montana’s hunting and fishing
heritage. Thankfully, the governor vetoed others. We were
lucky because the legislators sponsoring these bad bills were
surprised by the outrage of Montana resident hunters and anglers.
does the future hold for our hunting/fishing heritage in Montana?
That will largely be determined by who we elect to the legislature
and governor’s office. The Montana Sportsmen Alliance
was spawned from the 2011 legislative session with the goal
of preserving/enhancing our wildlife resources and protecting
the Montana resident hunter/angler. To this end we hope to
encourage greater involvement by Montana sportsmen in the
process, provide accurate information on the issues to both
sportsmen and legislative candidates, meet with the candidates
from both parties to discuss our concerns and provide relevant,
accurate data/information; develop a platform of pro-hunting,
fishing and access bills that both landowners and sportsmen
can support; and to participate in future legislative sessions
to provide the voice of reason on Montana fish and wildlife
What can you do to help?
Start by learning about the issues from reliable sources and
getting actively involved in your local sportsmen organizations.
The Montana Sportsmen Alliance website (www.montanasportsmenalliance.com)
has information and resources. Our MSA
PAC Blog has articles from newspapers, sportsmens
written articles, alerts, etc. A major problem is finding
reliable, accurate sources of information. Beware of groups
and individuals that claim to represent the average hunters
and anglers but upon scrutiny, may not in fact represent the
average Joe, but instead have their own hidden agenda. “Truth
and facts” can be a difficult commodity to find at times.
Find out where your elected
officials stand on hunting, fishing and access issues. Discuss
your concerns with the candidates. Go to candidate forums
and whenever possible, have one-on-one discussions with them.
Be sure that they understand your concerns and that you will
hold them accountable for their actions in the legislature.
When you find a candidate that shares your views and values
on wildlife issues, support them and work for their election.
At MSA, we believe hunting, fishing and access issues are
non-partisan and should be separated from each party’s
ideology. We want the legislators to vote on the merits of
the individual bills and respect for the wishes of their constituents
rather than the party designation of its sponsor.
Talk to landowners to start
re-building the relationships hunters/anglers once had. Realize
that a very small percentage of sportsmen have created real
problems for landowners and understand their frustration with
hunters/anglers. Recognize the impact hunting season has on
landowners with all the people stopping by and/or phoning
them. Offer to help out in the off season and send thank you
notes after the season. The landowners are not our enemies
nor are we their enemies.
Make no mistake, this upcoming
election will determine the face of hunting, fishing and access
for Montana resident hunters/anglers for many years to come.
The threats are real. Special interest groups and individuals
are already preparing legislation that will be very detrimental
to our children’s hunting and fishing heritage. The
Montana resident hunting and fishing community is one of the
largest voting blocs in the state and if we stand together
we can create a positive environment for the future.