Breaking Down Montana’s Block Management Program: Public Access Hunting
By Matt Schauer

Posted: September 7, 2012

There are almost 8 million acres, from 1,250 landowners, enrolled in the public hunting access program for the 2012 hunting season.  That is a lot of private land available for public hunting access.

The FWP Block Management Program started in 1985, but many hunters and landowners still don’t understand how the program works.

Landowners, who are enrolled in the BMP, develop specific contracts with FWP that are tailored to specific ranches. The landowner controls the private land, while FWP enforces the hunting regulations.  Each landowner has the ability to determine specific rules for their property.

Some of those rules may include:

  • How permission will be issued
  • Whether or not hunter numbers are limited
  • Which game birds or animals may be hunted
  • When the enrolled property is open to hunting
  • What methods of travel may be allowed

The landowners may recieve compensation and services to help manage the hunting activities and to offset the impacts of allowing public hunting.

Some of the impacts may include:

  • Time spent dealing with hunters
  • Increased costs of managing for noxious weeds
  • Increased fire danger
  • Maintaining roads and fences
  • Additional costs associated with managing livestock in conjunction with public hunting

If you are a hunter and planning on accessing Block Management Program lands, expect to encounter a wide range of habitat types and conditions.  Some properties are enrolled to provide a specific type of hunting, like a river bottom for waterfowl hunting or a grassland for antelope hunting.  Other properties offer a wider range of hunting opportunities.  The majority of BMA land is open to all legal game species, but some restrict what can be hunted and when it can be hunted.

Type I BMA is where no formal permission is required from the hunters.  This is typically on larger ranches.  There are also no restrictions on hunter numbers.  The other half are Type II BMA, where a hunter must receive permission from landowner, hunter numbers are limited and hunting areas are assigned.

Here is what Alan Charles, BMA program manager in Helena had to say:

“The success of the program lies in being able to tailor each BMA contract to the needs of each landowner. In Montana, we’re administering a benefits system that provides for fair and equitable treatment of all landowners, and one that provides hunters with a wide variety of hunting opportunities from which to choose.”

To learn more about FWP’s BMA program, visit FWP’s website.