Wednesday, April 15, 2015

UPOM's Landowner Hypocrisy

Recently, Mark Robbins, president of United Property Owners of Montana (UPOM), attempted to refute sportsmen's letters protesting the Legislature cutting vital Fish, Wildlife & Parks funding. UPOM's article – Legislature gets it right on habitat funding.

Robbins tries to piece together a number of falsehoods, presenting a distorted Picasso-like image of FWP, by trying to force together puzzle pieces of information that don't fit. He attempts to make “habitat” a dirty word,  he confuses sportsmen's license fees with “tax dollars”, then he imagines FWP has been on a “land-buying spree”,  while also accusing FWP of “a slush fund”.

UPOM's president then alleges FWP's mismanagement of wildlife numbers, “FWP's solution was not to reduce the elk herd in order to protect the habitat – it was to try to buy the adjacent land.” This principle is the kicker, having milked cows at a dairy, I know an ornery kicker when I see one.

What business doesn't welcome growth, expanding opportunities? Tourism & Outdoor Recreation is now the largest economical driver in Montana, with over $5 Billion dollars contributed to Montana's economy from non residents alone. With 63% of Montanans identifying themselves as sportsmen and 66% Montanans visiting public lands six or more times per year, with 38% visiting more than TWENTY times per year, you start to see the real economic picture that our wildlife and “habitat” present.

FWP is not using Eminent Domain to obtain land. They obtain it through a legal purchase, from a willing seller. UPOM does not object to land purchases by private landowners, such as the Wilks Brothers or the Koch Brothers who are two of the largest landowners in Montana right now, but they clearly have an objection to land purchases by FWP, that will benefit the majority of Montanans - the public.

Abraham Lincoln, who began as an attorney, illustrated a hypocrite as such: a hypocrite is the man who murdered both his parents, then pleaded for mercy on the grounds he was an orphan. While researching public access obstructions, I remembered Robbins from documenting his locked gate on the Mabee Road, cutting off access to our BLM lands.

Robbins is a rancher who runs cattle. But he doesn't have enough “habitat” of his own, so instead of “reducing” his herd, he leases additional public BLM lands for grazing in Fergus County, at a low subsidized rate of $1.69 an AUM.

UPOM's president is not only a rancher, he is also a hunting outfitter, who profits from selling hunts of our public wildlife. From his business perspective, he benefits if there is less public “habitat” hunting for DIY hunters and less wildlife available – supply and demand – the less public competition there is, the more you can charge per unit. Robbins has outfitting leases on 4,463 acres of our State DNRC land in Fergus County.

As a hunter, I encourage FWP's purchasing “habitat” to expand our wildlife hunting opportunities on public lands. Even in years when I was injured and couldn't hunt, I purchased a license so my fees would benefit our wildlife and habitat. As a Montana citizen, I am also a United Property Owner – united with other Montanan's in sharing and contributing to our Montana Public Lands.

Theodore Roosevelt stated that in addition to accomplishing things that are of immediate consequence to the economic well-being of the people, there are other things to be done for which the economic benefit may be more remote, but that bear directly on our welfare, “because they add to the beauty of living and therefore to the joy of life.” Wildlife “habitat” is such for Montana.

You will obviously see, that the FWP funding puzzle pieces, set in their proper place, produce a clear and inspiring picture – that our crucial access and habitat funding, derived from sportsmen's dollars (which cannot be used for anything else), tremendously benefits our wildlife, Montanans and our state's economy. Remember, context is everything.

Kathryn QannaYahu, EMWH founder


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