Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Recruits

There’s been a lot of smoke and a little fire around Montana the week after the general rifle season closed. Overall, it was a bit of a slow season. Reports are being released from Check Stations around Montana, and it appears the last two weeks of the season were the most productive in terms of harvesting elk, and of course, rutted-up deer. We’ve hit 100 on the overall wolf quota, and I fully expect to see that number climb during the next month

FWP’s proposal to expand the wolf season is being considered next week at the Commission meeting, and the long-awaited proposal from the Missouri River Breaks Elk Archery Working Group will be presented as well. Both of these issues are red hot in terms of how FWP manages wildlife and public perception. FWP also issued a press release today stating that Director Joe Maurier had signed a decision notice to translocate bison to the tribes at Fort Peck and Fort Belknap. A tip of our Stormy Chromer to Joe for listening to the people of Montana, and for taking a stand against those who don’t want any bison, anywhere, at any time, in any part of the state. This is a small step forward, as most steps in Bison conservation are, but it’s an important one, and one that we salute.

FWP is beginning a long term Environmental Impact Statement to develop a management plan and to explore places for Bison to be located at, with a timeline of around 2015. Given how long it took to get a Bighorn Sheep management plan, this timeline seems reasonable. There are a lot of places that Bison could work in Montana. A constructive conversation between conservationists and landowners who would be affected by bison translocation is critical to moving forward with any kind of relocation to public lands.

Bison, wolves, and Elk Archery. Good grief. It’s like we’re back at the Legislature.

There’s an undercurrent in Montana to try and exclude the local hunter and angler from the discussion when it comes to wildlife management. It’s shown itself repeatedly through bills that would eliminate public access to public lands, reduce elk habitat security, force the test and slaughter of elk, and simply hand control of the department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks over to the same Legislature that tried to severely erode our stream access rights. Luckily, thousands of Montanans rose up and engaged in their rights as Americans; they participated in a democratic movement to influence legislation.

I recovered a 165 grain Nosler partition out of the little buck I shot this year. That bullet and that buck are a culmination of millions of man hours, and billions of dollars spent by hunters and conservationists. The commitment to perpetrate a system of wildlife management that allows all to participate in the sport of hunting, and to protect the rights of the common man to continue the traditions and the legacies built up by generations of public land hunters is a testament to the true brilliance of America’s pledge to wildlife and wild places.

That deserves new recruits, doesn’t it?

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