A revised bill aims to sweeten the deal for landowners in Montana willing to allow public hunting on their property. Under House Bill 96, landowners that allow access to at least four public elk hunters will receive one elk tag in exchange.
The bill is seen by most as a win-win, allowing public access to elk hunting opportunities and incentivizing landowners to open up access through the state’s Block Management Program. Additionally, representatives are hopeful that the success of the bill will also aid the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in managing elk populations in certain areas of the state.
“Wildlife management is a very controversial topic with lots of different views,” Rep. Zach Brown told the Billings Gazette. “PL/PW wanted to increase access while respecting private property rights … and meet elk management population objectives. This helps us move closer to those goals.”
Instituted in 1985, Block Management has been providing free public hunting experiences across Montana since its inception. Working in conjunction, landowners, hunters and resource managers the program has been a catalyst in the state’s effort to increase access for hunters.
While FWP will assume no responsibility for the hunters chosen in the program, they have said that they are willing to work closely with landowners on a contractual first right of refusal option.
The hunters chosen for available tags will be selected at random and landowners are eligible for up to 25 elk tags if 100 hunters were given access to their property. The program maxes out at 25 tags per landowner, but tags are available for use by immediate family members (residents and non-residents), as well as employees.
During 2016, approximately 1,262 landowners enrolled about 7.3 million acres of land in Montana’s Block Management Program. The revised bill hopes to play a vital role in continuing to increase both access and public relations with the state’s landowners.