Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting June 8, comment deadline May 11
HELENA – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on several proposals slated to go to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in June. Comment is open through May 11.
After public comment, commissioners can offer amendments to the proposals as they see fit. The proposals and supporting documents, commissioner amendments and collected public comment are available on the commission webpage.
The commission will make a final decision on these proposals at its meeting on June 8.
Mountain lion quotas and license descriptions for fall 2023–winter 2024
FWP is presenting four alternatives for commission consideration pertaining to mountain lion quotas and licenses.
- The first alternative is the status quo, which includes the 12.5 percent reduction of mountain lion numbers in the Northwest Ecoregion. This was adopted by the commission in 2022.
- The second alternative would achieve a 10 percent reduction in mountain lion numbers statewide within six years if the quota were achieved, although all quotas are not met currently. The third alternative would achieve a 20 percent reduction in mountain lion numbers statewide within six years.
- The fourth alternative would achieve a 40 percent reduction in mountain lion numbers statewide within six years.
None of the alternatives would change the proportion of the harvest that would occur in the fall seasons and the number of special limited mountain lion licenses. All alternatives include a specific addition to regulation that clarifies that a nonresident hound license allows nonresidents to chase mountain lions in any open LMU as intended by the commission in June 2022.
2023–2024 bird dog training seasons on open public lands
FWP is asking the commission to adopt the bird dog training season on wild birds on public lands in Montana to be Aug. 1 through the last day of February, with no training allowed on public land from March 1 through July 31. Under the proposal from FWP, a dog trainer may not train on public lands if additional land use regulations prohibit access during all or part of this training window. If approved, FWP will prepare an addendum to the 2023 upland game bird seasons that will clearly identify the license requirements and fee, the season dates, and areas open to training as defined by statute and commission action. In subsequent years, this will be addressed as part of the upland game bird season setting process.
Consolidated public use rules (ARM) for lands administered by FWP
FWP is asking the commission to initiate rule making on consolidated public use rules for all department lands (state parks, fishing access sites, wildlife management areas, wildlife habitat protection areas, and fisheries conservation areas). Currently, there are three different sets of public use rules depending on site type. The purpose of the consolidated rules would be to consistently manage public uses across all lands while protecting fish and wildlife habitats as well as improving customer service and understanding of expectations for public use. The public can make comment on whether the commission should initiate rule making or not.
Private Land Recreation Management Areas – biennial rule renewal (Regions 1 and 2)
FWP has three Private Land Recreation Management Area (RMA) agreements that provide for year-round public recreational access and management on some private lands in Regions 1 and 2. For each, the Fish and Wildlife Commission has established biennial rules to define the public use and provide for enforcement on enrolled lands. The current biennial rules are set to expire in August 2023. Each landowner would like to renew the rules and continue their RMA agreements with FWP for another two years. The RMAs in place are:
- Stimson Lumber Company: Established in 2021, this agreement encompasses 119,761 acres in Regions 1 and 2.
- Avista: Established in 2016, this agreement encompasses 5,029 acres in Region 1 in Sanders County along the Clark Fork River near Thompson Falls.
- The Nature Conservancy: Established in 2015, this agreement encompasses 151,000 acres in Region 2.
2023 Elk Hunting Access Agreements
FWP is looking for commission approval for the 2023 Elk Hunting Access (EHA) agreements. Like last year, applicants in districts exceeding the 10 percent cap be sent to a random draw for determination. The EHA access agreement deadline is May 15. The final applications will be available online about two weeks prior to the June 8 commission meeting.
The EHA agreement program has increased public access to elk for wildlife management purposes. No significant adverse impacts to the elk resource are anticipated with the proposed agreements based upon elk population status and management objectives.
To comment and for more information on these proposals, go online to https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/commission/june-2023-meeting.