Elk group makes appointment despite outfitter protests

2013-02-20T12:00:00Z 2013-02-21T07:36:04Z Elk group makes appointment despite outfitter protestsBy BRETT FRENCH french@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Despite opposition by some Montana outfitters, television host Randy Newberg’s appointment to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s board was announced Wednesday.

“Our position is pretty simple,” said David Allen, the foundation’s CEO. “We feel we have room for all types of hunters and nonhunters.

“We are not going to get into hunter-vs.-hunter debates because that’s nonproductive for all of us,” he added. “One person on a 24-member board does not have an undue influence on strategy.”

He added that in his 10 years with RMEF, first as a board member, he can’t remember an appointment being contested.

Newberg, host of “On Your Own Adventures” on the Sportsman Channel, disclosed the outfitters’ attempt to have his appointment blocked on his blog, Hunt Talk, earlier this week. He posted an email sent by the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association notifying its members of whom to contact to voice opposition to Newberg’s appointment. The email was also sent to outfitter associations in Idaho and Wyoming.

Mac Minard, director of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association (MOGA), said earlier this week that his group was simply providing the information for those who wanted to voice opposition. Newberg called it an “aggressive campaign to notify a lot of people.” Another email posted on his blog showed one outfitter threatened to stop providing hunts through RMEF auctions if Newberg was appointed.

“We have had many, many emails and phone calls since this issue has broken publicly, and I would say its well over 90 percent supporting our position and Randy Newberg,” Allen said.

“This is three or four people who, now that MOGA’s management has changed, I’m on the agenda,” said Newberg, a Bozeman resident and CPA.

Rob Arnaud, of Bozeman, is the newly elected president of MOGA.

Because of his national celebrity, Newberg has become a high-profile advocate for hunters when he has testified at hearings on bills before the Montana Legislature that deal with hunting and hunting access. On Monday, he addressed a rally of hunters on the Capitol steps before a legislator tried to revive a bill that had been killed in committee. The bill would have allowed the public to cross fences at public land corners. The attempt failed in the full House along a largely party-line vote.

Despite his stance on the bill, which was opposed by outfitting and landowner interest groups, Newberg challenged his critics to find an instance of when he took an anti-outfitter or anti-landowner stance.

“All sides are saying this is a gray area,” he said of the corner crossing bill. “If we’re all property rights advocates, we should all want to know where the courts stand.

“The issue is not going away, and neither am I. I’m a property rights advocate and I want an answer.”

Newberg sees the attack on his RMEF appointment as one piece of a larger debate over how Montana manages wildlife and hunting.

“Montana has always prospered by shouting down the fringe and sticking to the middle,” he said. “There’s nothing that’s going to distract me from the principles I live with."

The main principle, Newberg said, is “doing the most good for the most people.” 

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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