Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Elk Sellers by John Gibson


Montana’s big game herds have become big business.  Several properties now advertise a hunt for bull elk at $15,000. It might include a trespass fee or a guided hunt but the elk is the product. Without the elk other two components are only worth a few hundred dollars. They are selling elk.
Look around and see existing examples of managers making tens of thousands of dollars each season selling bull elk.  
Granted, there are others who want to control elk for political influence or their own style of management. Whatever the reason, these are public elk and covered by the public trust.    
We pay the Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to manage elk in our state. But if you read the web site of profiteers, such as the Musselshell or Arnaud  Outfitters you will find there is little or no mention  of the Montana FW&P. One could easily conclude that these landowners manage their own wildlife. The problem is, that conclusion is not far from the truth.
This is not the way a majority of Montana residents want their wildlife managed. We expect the department to manage the public wildlife resource under the Public Trust Doctrine, and within the scope of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. These tenets are based on a foundation of equal opportunity and the democracy of the hunt.
Public bull elk for sale for $15,000 is completely inconsistent with these principles. It makes little difference if the sale is bundled with a trespass fee or a guided hunt.
If this system is allowed to continue, my children and grandchildren, like most other Montanans, will never have an opportunity to enjoy much of the state’s wildlife that belongs to them.
No one is advocating erosion of private property rights. But public wildlife is not private property.  We expect the department to use the allocation process early to level the playing field and bring big game management more in line with the public trust. This can be done by conducting a drawing for all trophy animals on properties that are clearly selling or otherwise controlling bull elk.
 With the permits in place, only hunters successfully drawing a permit can hunt these animals. Likewise, the property owner can only deal with permit holders to charge for access. Also, only ten percent of the permits will be allocated to nonresidents.
 If harvest of both male and female animals is inadequate under this system, the Dept. should issue fewer permits for trophy animals in subsequent years until the surplus elk are gone. If the harvest remains too high, all trophy permits should eventually be terminated.
The courage and commitment of the Dept. of Fish and Game is about to be tested severely now that most of the habitat occupied by the second largest elk herd in Montana is under one ownership. Will these thousands of elk be controlled by the landowner or the people of Montana who are the beneficiaries of the public trust?
John Gibson
3028 Ave E
Billings MT PH  406 656 0384

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beaverhead & Big Hole River Recreation Rules Comments by Ray Gross

Ray Gross is a conservation hunter & angler, an FWP Citizen Advisory Council member for our Region 3 and a George Grant Chapter of Trout Unlimited (southwest Montana) board member from Dillon, Montana with firsthand experience concerning the Beaverhead & Big Hole River Recreation Rules. Below are his bullet points for comments and concerns. Please take a few moments to send in public scoping comments SUPPORTING the Beaverhead and Big Hole River Recreation Rules - with additional concerns. We need to protect our public lands and waters from privatization and exploitation.

Montana FWP - "The Beaverhead and Big Hole River Recreation Rules were first adopted in 1999 to address public concerns about crowding. The rules include restrictions on float outfitting and non-resident float fishing on certain days of the week for specified sections of the rivers. The rules also limit the number of watercraft that may be launched per day at official access sites."

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will host two public scoping meetings in October to take comments and questions about the Beaverhead and Big Hole River Recreation Rules. The meetings will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the dates and at the locations which follow:
  • Dillon: Wednesday, Oct. 21 at the University of Montana-Western Block Hall #311
  • Butte: Thursday, Oct. 22 at the Butte Ranger District, 1820 Meadowlark Drive
The Scoping process will develop a tentative proposal, which will go to the FWP Commissioners probably in December, with FWP's recommendations. Pending commissioner tentative approval, it would then be opened up for the formal comment period with a vote by the FWP Commission expected in Jan. or Feb.

Scoping Comments on the Rules may be emailed to or sent to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Attn: Cheryl Morris, 1400 S. 19th Ave., Bozeman, MT 59718

I support the Beaverhead and Big Hole River rules. The rules are working, but I have concerns.

  • Some outfitters are outright selling client days. They are selling client days for on the Beaverhead and on the Big Hole. The rules are that client days can only be transferred if an outfitter sold his business. There was to be no vested interest created with the river rules.
  • A few outfitters have even sold their client days, applied for and received additional days as a one boat outfitter.
  • An outfitter on the Beaverhead that gets more clients than he has allowed number of boats on the river, or client days, calls other outfitters and uses their client days. They call this subleasing or acting as a booking agent.
  • The Tash to Selway stretch of the Beaverhead River was closed to float outfitting to provide a stretch of river for the public to not have the conflict and competition with commercial outfitting. Some outfitters are leasing or paying rod fees to walk their clients to this stretch of the river. This is a statement by those outfitters that they have no consideration for the public. The Big Hole has one stretch of river closed to float outfitting every day of the week. There are not enough stretches on the Beaverhead to do this.
  • Float fishing is permitted from the dam on the Beaverhead to Buffalo Bridge. This stretch is mostly wade fishing and has public access on both sides of the river. Floating through this section causes conflicts and is an intrusion to wading anglers. Floaters could put in at Buffalo Bridge and walk upstream to wade fish if they want. Additional parking would need to be provided at Buffalo Bridge. This is Bureau of Reclamation land.
  • Outfitter client days are only counted during "the shoulder seasons", June and July on the Big Hole and July and August on the Beaverhead. The outfitters were originally allocated days based on the total number of days they had during their highest year. When the rules were passed, in 1999, the internet was not used as extensively. At present, with the internet and the smart phone, clients are recruited by email, web pages, social media, text messages and on and on. Now there are exponentially greater numbers of clients recruited. The outfitting season starts in early May and lasts through October, not considering the cast and blast trips. Commercial, outfitted use, on all Montana’s rivers will continue to grow. How much capacity do our rivers have? How much longer will exponential grow of commercial fishing outfitting, on all Montana Rivers, go unchecked and unregulated? All this needs to be reevaluated. 

Ray Gross

Dillon, Montana