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Elk hunters

The right to hunt is already guaranteed in the Montana Constitution.

A bill to increase the number of some hunting licenses for nonresidents would add $147,000 in annual revenue for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, as well as pump money into the coffers of businesses servicing those out-of-staters, proponents argued during a Tuesday hearing.

“I don’t think the fiscal note reflects the true impact,” said by Rep. Kerry White, R-Bozeman, who sponsored House Bill 568.

The bill proposes to guarantee out-of-staters 10 percent of the elk, deer, antelope, mountain lion, or black bear licenses issued for those species. The measure was supported by the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.

“This bill generates significant revenue,” said Jean Johnson, MOGA’s lobbyist. “The nonresident supports that (FWP) agency across the street,” with 70 percent of their budget coming from nonresident license sales.

FWP receives no money from the state general fund.

Opposing the measure were representatives from the Montana Wildlife Federation and Montana Bowhunters Association who argued that season setting should be done by the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission, not the Legislature.

“Our main concern is that it is taking away authority from the FWP Commission for season setting, that’s a dangerous precedent,” said Jerry Davis, of the MBA.

Davis and Nick Gevock, conservation director for MWF, also argued that it would take tags away from resident hunters.

“I have to advocate for resident hunters and anything that sees a decrease we would be against,” Davis said.

Mac Minard, executive director of MOGA, said Montana is in a national market to lure out-of-state hunters and needs every edge it can get to attract those people who may otherwise go to other Western states.

“I do not believe this reduces the opportunity for resident hunters,” White said. “Resident hunters have the ability to go to another area and hunt elk.”

Gevock disagreed, saying based on figures he received from FWP that residents could receive 10 fewer coveted elk tags in the Elkhorn Mountains near Helena, which is managed as a trophy elk hunting district.

The bill was amended to remove a section that would have created two archery-only subseasons for nonresident elk hunters in the Missouri River Breaks.

Information at the hearing suggested that out of 17,000 nonresident hunters who visit Montana, less than one-third use an outfitter.

No action was taken on the bill.

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Montana Untamed Editor

Montana Untamed editor for the Billings Gazette.