Part of three-pronged effort at improving elk management in Montana
HELENA – After 10 meetings and much deliberation, the Elk Management Citizen Advisory Group has forwarded its recommendations to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Hank Worsech.
“I’m very impressed with the work that went into these recommendations,” Worsech said. “I asked the members to bring their own experience and creativity to help us advance potential solutions to issues facing elk management in Montana. Their recommendations are innovative, heartfelt and collaborative – all I could hope for.”
The citizen advisory group was formed this past spring after a call for applications. Nearly 300 people applied. Twelve members from across the state were appointed by Director Worsech and met for the first time on March 22. The remaining applicants served as a sounding board for advisory group members and provided feedback on the group’s work.
Now officially in the department’s hands, the recommendations will be assessed by staff for implementation feasibility, fiscal impacts and legal or other issues before all being released for public comment. Once the public has a chance to provide feedback on the recommendations and staff assessments, Worsech plans to present them to the Environmental Quality Council, an interim legislative committee.
The advisory group is one of three pieces of a larger effort aimed at improving elk management in Montana. The group was specifically tasked with developing a set of recommendations to address elk management issues and improve relationships between hunters and landowners.
The second piece of the process is the Private Lands/Public Wildlife (PLPW) committee, which is currently working on suggestions for the Elk Hunting Access Agreements Program, hunter ethics and education, and public access programs.
The third piece is the ongoing process of scoping for management objectives for the elk plan revision. Currently, FWP is collecting public feedback on what management objectives should be in hunting districts across Montana to inform the upcoming revision to the elk management plan.
The three separate looks at elk management in Montana will provide a variety of perspectives that will be critical moving forward.
“I wanted to get these efforts underway simultaneously because elk management in Montana presents such complex social and biological issues,” Worsech said. “Any similar solutions and ideas from these different efforts will tell me what elements have broader support. Each piece of the process will also raise unique ideas for improving elk management moving forward. That’s exactly the kind of comprehensive approach we need on the complicated task of managing elk in Montana.”
The Elk Management Citizen Advisory Group’s recommendations and staff assessments will come out for public comment in August. The next PLPW meeting is Aug. 24. The elk plan scoping meetings are ongoing with the plan slated to be out for public comment in spring of 2023 and finalized later that summer.
“I’ve insisted since becoming director at FWP that we needed to improve elk management both for hunters and for landowners. We’ve asked the public, and these groups in particular, for help and they’ve stepped forward in a big way,” Worsech said.