Landowners in central and eastern Montana received a letter from Fish, Wildlife and Parks last week that essentially threatened them with extortion.
Since 2008 FWP has restricted hunting opportunity in these specific areas, with a goal of coercing more access to private land for hunting. FWP mistakenly assumed that a landowner would bargain away private property rights for the price of an elk permit. Instead, the limit has been directly responsible for millions of dollars in lost tourism revenue to the surrounding communities, as well as less access to private land for public hunting.
With this recent letter FWP is attempting to pass off a few extra permits as an “incentive” that landowners should be grateful for and therefore bend to FWP’s will, or face the consequences. They are telling landowners that if more access is not given and elk harvest increased, they will further reduce bull elk permits in these areas. The letter states, “If there is no increased harvest, the Commission has identified reducing bull permit numbers as a potential if not likely management response.”
These attacks on property rights have resulted in the worst landowner/sportsman relations in recent history, and a near all-time low in hunting license sales. Instead of recognizing the uncompensated contribution private landowners make to wildlife habitat, FWP seems hell-bent on imposing their will, and public access, onto private land. Landowners are fed up with these tactics.
Dave Abel, Toby Dahl and Deanna Robbins
Directors, United Property Owners of Montana