Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thanks Max

For Immediate Release

Encouraged by new commitment to double-down and make Montana a better place

A broad spectrum of hunters and anglers from across Montana today reacted to the announcement that Senior Senator Max Baucus will not seek re-election in 2014 with disappointment, but were encouraged by his commitment to ‘double-down’ on several home-grown conservation efforts before his term expires.

“Senator Baucus has been a tireless champion of public access to public lands, increasing sporting opportunities and ensuring a bright future for Montana’s most iconic landscapes.  His efforts to secure the Gallatin Land Exchanges, to conserving the North Fork of the Flathead River, to recent introduction of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, are just a few of many examples to a lasting public access legacy from his four decades of public service,” said Randy Newberg, host of outdoors television show, On Your Own Adventures. “His retirement from the Senate is reason to reflect on the many public access efforts his service in Congress has provided to Montanans.”

“We owe Max Baucus a debt of gratitude for the work that he’s accomplished over the last forty years  to ensure a bright future for Montana’s hunting and angling heritage and sustainable economy, by improving and defending public access to public lands” said Randy Newberg said. “His steadfast support of full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and  his ability to put Montana interests above  partisan gridlock is how things should work in public land policy,” Newberg Continued.

Although Baucus will be missed, sportsmen were encouraged by his statements to redouble efforts to pass the North Fork Protection Act and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act before his term expires:

“Max will be remembered for the way he brought Montanans to together to hash out home-grown solutions for our land and water,” said Joe Perry, a member of the Montana Sportsmen’s Alliance.   “I’m encouraged that the products of this home-grown collaboration will remain a top priority. I hope we pass them soon to cement Max’s legacy.”

Prior to the retirement announcement by Senator Baucus, over 1,000 sportsmen requested Montana’s congressional delegation work together to pass the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act.

Jim Posewtiz, founder of Orion, the Hunter’s Institute said: “We also remember, with great appreciation, Max’s role in the creation of the Canyon Ferry Trust in the late 1990’s.  At one point the effort to create the Trust was nearly derailed by narrow opposing political ideology.  Max was able to stay the course and keep the effort focused on what was right for fish, wildlife and public access.  Each year since that trust has added to the Montana outdoor conservation legacy – and because of the public trust nature of the venture, it will carry on in perpetuity.”

“Senator Baucus has done yeoman’s work on ensuring that wildlife and the hunters and anglers who cherish them to remain strong along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front. From the bi-partisan legislation that withdrew the Front from oil and gas drilling to the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, Max has been a champion of wildlife and hunters and anglers,” said Nick Gevock, Outreach Coordinator for the Montana Wildlife Federation. “There’s a lot of work left to be done, and we’ll be standing with Max all the way to ensure passage of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act and finally achieve full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund,”


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Habitat Conservation Blues

Politics is a blood sport and as the deals get made and trades on votes occur in dark corners with hushed conversations, the 63rd Montana Legislature is winding down. The blood is flowing.

On April 15th, Patriot’s day, the Montana Senate decided that they didn’t want habitat conservation to be a part of Montana’s wildlife legacy anymore.

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee a few days earlier amended HB 5 to ensure that FWP wouldn’t be able to purchase another Wildlife Management Area or enter into Conservation Easements under the Habitat Montana program. Instead, the committee decided that short term leases, like FWP already engages in under the Access Montana Program would be the only use of this money.

If legislators actually took the time to look into what existing FWP programs there are, even a cursory glance shows us that the Access Montana program, which has around $500,000 per year for spending, doesn’t come close to matching that. The demand for long term leases just isn’t there.

Senator Kendall Van Dyk offered an amendment to HB 5 that would have restored the ability of FWP to enter into Conservation Easements and allow FWP to purchase more WMA’s if a deal was too good to pass up. His amendment closely mirrored the same amendment that the House of Representatives. It simply placed in HB 5 priority on Conservation Easements (with perpetual access agreements). This is the same priority that Governor Steve Bullock has told the agency to focus on.

But a long string of defeats when it comes to kicking the public off public lands has made some folks in the Senate mad. They cite purchases such as the Milk River Ranch, Spotted Dog and the Marias River WMA as the driving force behind their disdain for the most successful habitat conservation program FWP has. It’s a damned shame that during the last few days of the session, personal vendettas and short-sightedness take precedent over a program that has widespread support. The amendment died 23-27.

Habitat Montana has been a cornerstone program in how Montana maintains long hunting seasons, reduces landowner/wildlife conflict and provides permanent access to private lands while ensuring family farms and ranches can be passed down to the next generation of ranchers and farmers without breaking the bank.
The program has opened up over 200,000 acres of land and made them Public Property. It’s opened countless thousands of acres of land under private ownership to hunters and anglers as well all while conserving critical wildlife habitat.

There’s one opportunity left to fix this bad bill. Call 406-444-4800 or use the legislatures contact form and email your Representative and ask them to vote against concurrence on HB 5 and force it into a conference committee. It’s the only way we continue to get places like Fish Creek & the Marshall Block MWA’s in western Montana, and provides conservation easements for projects like the Teigen Ranch in eastern Montana.

There’s no time to waste. Act now. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Top 10 Reasons to Attend the Wild Night 4 Wildlife

For the uninitiated, Wild Night for Wildlife is Hellgate Hunters’ and Anglers’ annual event. This banquet draws sportsmen and women together to celebrate and support our conservation efforts for the year. Our 7th annual extravaganza kicks off at 6pm in the Karl Tyler Chevrolet showroom on April 13th. In no particular order, here are ten reasons to get off the couch and join us in Missoula on Saturday night:

1. Good Times with Good People—Wild Night offers the best chance of the year to raise a glass, share stories, or plot adventures with some of the most dedicated champions of wildlife conservation, public access, and sound public policy in Western Montana.

2. Fine Firearms—Once again, we’re offering the chance to win two beautiful firearms. The lucky raffle winners will head home with a gorgeous Kimber Classic Select .25-06 light weight hunting rifle or a mighty fine Kimber 1911 Custom Crimson .45 ACP.

3. Meaningful Advocacy—Proceeds from Wild Night support our efforts to speak up for hunters and anglers to state and federal agencies and at the state legislature.  HHA advocates for sound, science-based management of wildlife, public access to public resources, and public management of public wildlife.  Our efforts range from regional issues like forest travel plans to state-level issues like fighting to maintain stream access.

4. Make a weekend of it—Spring turkey season opens Saturday with over-the-counter opportunity in both Missoula and Ravalli counties. The Bitterroot, Clark Fork, Blackfoot, and Rock Creek are all in great shape for fishing right now and the famous Skwala stonefly hatch is in full swing.

5. No Child Left Inside—Invest in the next generation of sporting conservationists. HHA is partnering with the Montana Natural History Center and the Montana Game Wardens Association this summer to host a week-long fishing camp for local kids.

6. Scout Your Next Hunt—HHA launched the popular Montana Sportsmen’s Atlas last fall to provide a FREE interactive hunt planning tool showing land ownership, hunting districts, topo or satellite imagery, and Block Management Areas. We’ll have a demo of the tool at Wild Night and your attendance will help ensure we can keep it updated and improved.

7. Wildlife and Wild Lands Conservation—Support our conservation efforts for another year. Whether it’s working with our partners to restore, protect and provide public access to the recently acquired Rock Creek Confluence property, protecting our local waters from aquatic invasive species, or providing funding for wildlife research, HHA provides local support for vital local conservation projects.

8. Membership—$35/family or $20/individual not only gets you in the door but also gives you an annual membership in Hellgate Hunters and Anglers and the satisfaction of contributing to our cause.  You can also grab a sticker, hat, or t-shirt while you’re at it and show your pride in participating.

9. Wild Game—Wild Night includes the chance to enjoy the bounty of last fall’s harvest with a variety of appetizers featuring our favorite wild game recipes.

10. Keep the Bully Pulpit Alive—Thank you for reading the Montana Bully Pulpit! Joining us for Wild Night supports our continued efforts to keep you informed on the most important issues facing hunters and anglers in our great state.

Thank you for your continued support. Tickets for Wild Night are available from board members and at the door. We hope to see you there!

The Hellgate Hunters and Anglers Board

Casey Hackathorn, President
Bethany Morris, Vice President
Tony Hoyt, Treasurer
Fred Kellner, Secretary
Tim Aldrich
Ryan Chapin
Jessie Fischer
Kit Fischer
Bill Geer
Mark Olson
Land Tawney
Joel Webster

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Back the Front

I’ve spent a lot of time up on the Rocky Mountain Front and without a doubt; it’s my favorite place in the state. Those big limestone reefs looming overhead as you work your way up the drainage looking for migratory bulls make you feel like an insignificant speck in the eye of the world. The wind whips your face as you scan across the coulee looking for that monster muley buck to walk out like a monarch and chase his harem around. Wolves slink through the timber as they look for their next meal and the Grizzly bear knows your every move, hoping that you leave behind a pile for him to chew on instead of you.

It’s wild on the Front. Wilder than most anywhere else.

The Front is a place that deserves protection, that’s why in a few hours I’ll point the truck north, and head up to Congressman Steve Daine’s listening session. It’s the 10th listening session on the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act. That’s okay because sunlight is a great disinfectant.

The Heritage Act was crafted by folks who live along the Rocky Mountain Front and know that land better than any cartographer or weekend warrior like myself. Ranchers, farmers, taxidermists, outfitters, hunters, teachers and construction workers came together and because they so love this place, they worked across some fairly large ideological divides to devise a plan that would ensure the future of not only the public lands encompassed within the Heritage Act, but the lives of those who live and work along the Backbone of the World.

The Heritage Act is truly unique. It establishes a new designation for public lands: A Conservation Management Area. This has never been done before. The idea was simple: Things work well under the current travel management plan, so let’s use that as a framework for the bill.

Places that deserve wilderness protection will be protected under designated Wilderness. Places that deserve to be protected with their current uses will be placed under the CMA. The third level of protection is perhaps the most important: The Heritage Act makes the US Forest Service place a high priority on Noxious Weeds. That’s a good thing, and it expands on the great work already underway with the Forest Service and local weed working groups like the Rocky Mountain Front Weed Roundtable.

The act is home-grown. Yes it has detractors, but as Winston Churchill once said: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” 

Stand up and help protect the Rocky Mountain Front. Send a short note to Congressman Daine’s staff and let them know that your hunting, your wildlife and your public lands and the way of life that has helped ensure that the Rocky Mountain Front remains the way it is deserve to be protected in perpetuity.
You can send your comment to Congressman Steve Daines, care of Erin Gabrian at Erin.Gabrian@mail.house.gov

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The North Fork Gets It's Day

This ain’t no April Fools joke folks, it’s the real deal.

On Friday, March 29th, Montana’s newest member of the Congressional Delegation, Congressman Steve Daines made a fantastic decision: He’s introducing legislation that will help protect one of Montana’s best rivers: The North Fork of the Flathead River.

Folks have been working tirelessly to protect the western flank of the Crown of the Continent, and this legislation has what we like to see: common sense, meaningful protections and it still gives folks the ability to manage the lands they work and play in. The North Fork is renowned for its cutthroat fishing, floating and wildlife. Monster muleys who live in the dark holes that make every hunter wake up with the night sweats still run around the Valley. Booner black bears, bighorn sheep wolves and elk help round out one of the wildest hunting experiences in Montana. The North Fork has it all and we’re damned happy to see this bill get the bipartisan support it deserves.

All those critters and all that water mean something bigger than what you can put in your crosshairs though. It means that the future of the North Fork and the people who live there can count on a stable economic situation rather than rely on the boom and bust mentality that comes with foolish developmentl; and that’s a good thing.

Congressman Daines had this to say about his bill:

  “As a fifth-generation Montanan, I know the importance of our state’s rivers and mountains to Montanans’ outdoors heritage — because they’re part of my way of life, too,” he said. “The North Fork watershed is of critical value to our state’s outdoors heritage and the tourism economy in the Flathead Valley, and it’s important that we work together to protect this valuable resource.”
We agree wholeheartedly.

Threatened by poorly thought out development in its headwaters, Conservation groups and our Senators have been working tirelessly to make sure that this economic engine remains well tuned by protecting the entire corridor from unnecessary mining and drilling. There are some places that are worth more than the amount of gas or coal that could be stripped off of them. The North Fork is definitely one of them. The economic engine that drives the Flathead is tourism. There is no doubt about that. Ensuring that one of the most cherished and visited pieces of public ground, even if it as the end of the road, remains an engine of growth is critical to ensuring Montana’s continued economic growth.

We are hopeful that Congressman Daines can continue this effort of endorsing solid, workable proposals when it comes to land use legislation. Our Stormy Kromer is tipped in your direction, Congressman.
Well done.