If you've become lost in the woods, what should you do? If you’ve taken Hunter Education, or any outdoor training, you know what to do. STOP: Sit. Think. Observe. Plan.
That is what Montana hunters want the Fish and Wildlife Commission to do at their February 4 meeting on elk season setting. Just STOP. The public process to date has been unclear, the proposed solutions do not match any stated goal, and everyone is exhausted from the chaos.
Last summer the FWP director embarked on a series of public listening sessions with the stated goal of hearing from Montana hunters and anglers. His decision at the end of that process was to push a set of very unpopular proposals that drastically change elk hunting in Montana for the worse. It's as though he didn't listen at all.
Fortunately, elk hunters pushed back. Hard. They spoke up so strongly against that proposal that the Commission told the director that they would not be voting in support.
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Unfortunately, the director came right back with a brand new set of elk management proposals that no one had asked for. Hunters who showed up to try to stop the first set of bad proposals got whiplash from a different set of bad proposals. Public comment and the Commission vote on elk regulations were delayed until February 4, this Friday.
Please join me in asking the commission to once again resist these extreme proposals. Just STOP. Default to the existing elk hunting guidelines. Sit and think about how to chart a future for elk hunting that protects Montanans’ hunting heritage. Observe what Montana hunters are saying. Plan for responsible management of this treasured resource that doesn’t sell our elk to the highest bidder.
Montana’s elk management plan is nearly 18 years old. Instead of rushing blind into far-reaching changes, FWP should focus on getting stakeholders together and honestly identifying problems. FWP will never come up with collaborative solutions if it doesn’t listen to the Montanans who will feel the biggest impacts from their decisions. We’ve been hearing different proposals for privatizing wildlife from FWP, but we’re not hearing a well-considered set of goals and strategies.
FWP and the seven appointed commissioners are entrusted with a valuable resource: our wildlife. They hold the future of Montana’s hunting heritage in their hands. The director and the commission must remember that they work for resident Montana hunters, not non-resident, wealthy landowners. Wildlife belongs to all Montanans and Montana hunters have spoken loudly, clearly, and in unison to reject these proposals. It’s time to STOP.