Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ranching For Wildlife by Vito Quatraro

Sportsmen are constantly complaining about “Privatization and Commercialization” of our wildlife resources.  “Ranching for Wildlife” is another common phrase used to denote the takeover of our wildlife resources by private sources.

What does “Ranching for Wildlife” often look like?  What comes to my mind is allocating tags/vouchers to landowners that can be sold to the highest bidder and special seasons outside the general hunting season for that species.

Fast forward to Montana and the current proposals being considered by the FWP Commission and Dept of FWP.  First, shoulder seasons for elk, outside the traditional 11 week archery/rifle seasons, that could include the taking of bull elk.  Second, an Amendment to the current ARM rules to allow the Dept. to use lists provided by landowners to designate up to 100% of the hunters allowed to hunt on their lands during game damage hunts and management seasons.

At the FWP public meeting on the game damage rule changes, under questioning, Alan Charles admitted that there is no rule or law that would prohibit a landowner from charging a fee to hunters wishing to participate in game damage hunts, shoulder seasons or management hunts on their land.

Let’s add up what is being proposed.  Special seasons which could include bull elk; landowners could get to choose who hunts on their land; and there is nothing to stop the landowner for charging a fee to hunt on their private land during these special seasons/management hunts.  Seems to meet the criteria for “RANCHING FOR WILDLIFE”!!

It was apparent last night at the FWP game damage public comment meeting that they were not interested in hearing what we had to say.  There were only 5 people from Regions 2, 3 & 4 at the hearing which was skyped into each of those Regional headquarters.  The gal with Alan Charles had the gall to put a 2 minute maximum for comments from the audience, which only confirms these meetings are held to meet the process requirements not to consider our comments.  This is consistent with what Paul Sihler told a group in Butte on an issue, that though they asked for public comments, they were not taken into consideration by the FWP in making their decision.  The game damage amendments are not even being heard by the FWP Commission but will only be decided by FWP in Helena. 

It should be noted that at last night’s meeting, not a single sportsmen organization was represented or made comments.  Hopefully, they are weighing in via written comments.  The lack of advertisement of the meeting and extremely poor attendance should be of concern to the sportsmen of Montana.

As a side note, last November, Director Hagener established an interim policy changing ARM rule 12.9.804A pertaining to how hunters are selected for game damage and management hunts.  This may have been in violation of the above code.  In that Memorandum, it allows up to 25% of the hunters to be selected by the landowner.  Personally, I think allowing the landowner to choose 25% of the hunters is a good idea, provided no bull elk hunting is allowed.

The sportsmen of Montana are being duped by the FWP leadership in Helena.  Contrary to what some sportsmen have been saying, this is not being brought forth by legislators, landowners, outfitters or MOGA!  All of these proposals are moving forward with the approval and at the direction of FWP Director Hagener and his leadership team in Helena!!  It is time that sportsmen stand up to the Dept and hold them accountable.  Science based wildlife management has taken a back seat to increasing revenues, “social tolerance” and personal agendas.

The applicable statutes/ARM rules for the game damage rules are:
         
          87-1-225; 12.9.803; 12.9.804; 12.9.804A; 12.9.805; 12.9.1101

I see lots of emails that say our wildlife problems/issues are being caused by FWP, landowners, ranchers, legislators and MOGA.  These are labels that lump all individuals within these groups as the problem.  This is grossly unfair to some very good people within each group. 

There are some excellent folks who work for FWP but due to the current “culture of fear”, which I heard mentioned at the game damage meeting in Bozeman, are unable to speak up.  There are landowners and ranchers that are good stewards of the land/wildlife who participate in working on solutions to the problems that exist today.  The same can be said of legislators.  While some like to target MOGA, they never differentiate between private land outfitters and public land outfitters.  There is a huge difference between the two.  Anyone who has spent time with a public land outfitter knows the work, effort and hunting experience they provide for their clients.  Every group mentioned has some good people that truly care about our wildlife resources and are willing to work toward solutions that create a win-win scenario for all parties involved.

By lumping people together, we are also insulting some of the very people that could be our best allies as we move forward.  Every profession or group has their good, bad and ugly members.  The trick is to align with the good while at the same time calling out the bad/ugly.

There is a basic rule for good negotiating: “attack the issues but not the individuals”, but I believe that there is at least one valid exception to that rule.  When the issue is the people, then they must be held accountable.

FWP, Landowners, Ranchers, Legislators and MOGA are merely categories, not individual people.  I believe that we should be using names to identify those individuals within the above categories that are responsible for creating the problems we are facing today.  A good example is the Wilks brothers, who we have no problem calling out by name, over their attempts to control hunting in the Durfee hills, dictate hunting policy, etc and we have no problem calling out some legislators by name.  Why are we not doing this with FWP???  By not using names, the offending individuals can hide within the groups label without having to be held accountable for their actions.  No one likes to be publicly attacked, but when all else has failed and they are the decision makers, what other option is left??  It is not meant to be an attack on them as people, but as an attack on their decision making and/or motives.

Vito


EMWH note: personally, I am not in favor of landowners choosing hunters for a list. With a game damage program in such disarray, lack of oversight and compliance, as the audit showed, including matters of the Hunt Roster, FWP has  decided again to alter the roster process to conform to their noncompliant actions by adding, " or lists of names supplied by landowners" in a number of places and striking from ARM 12.9.1101, "If sufficient numbers of hunters cannot be identified through use of the game damage hunt roster,". This is a clear indication that they favor the landowner supplied lists, instead of utilizing the democratic hunt roster.

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