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; Fish, Wildlife and Parks 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.
What does the future hold for our hunting/fishing heritage in Montana? That will largely be determined by whom 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.
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 links to the bills brought forth in the 2011 session; articles from newspapers; calendar of events being held; list of all the statewide legislative candidates, etc.
A major problem is finding reliable, accurate sources of information. Beware of groups and individuals that claim to represent the average hunter, when upon scrutiny, may not in fact represent the average Joe but instead have their own hidden agenda.
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 nonpartisan and should be separated from each party’s ideology.
Talk to landowners to start rebuilding the relationships hunters/ anglers once had. 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. 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.