HELENA – The suite of recommendations developed by the Elk Management Citizen Advisory Group are available for public review and comment.
The group was organized this past spring by FWP director Hank Worsech to develop recommendations on elk management issues and to improve relationships between stakeholders interested in improving elk management. The group was composed of 12 citizens who represent a broad range of viewpoints and experience.
The group held 10 facilitated, public meetings and grappled with a variety of issues, settling on a list of 15 recommendations for Director Worsech. The recommendations were reviewed by FWP staff to assess implementation. The recommendations were also evaluated for their fiscal impact to FWP.
The staff evaluations, fiscal impact, and full text of the group’s recommendations are available online, where people can also provide comment.
The group’s recommendations are as follows:
Access Plus Program: The intent of the program would be to incentivize landowners to allow public hunting by addressing major concerns regarding allowing public access. This program would produce a pool of hunters that have an elevated skill set and intimate knowledge of landowner operations and concerns through required training.
Choose Your Weapon/Season: The intent of the recommendation is to reduce pressure on elk on public land by easing the crowding on public land. This proposal would make hunters choose which weapon they want to hunt with, therefore limiting the number of people in the field at any given time.
Collaboration between FWP, USFS, BLM & DNRC and Any Other Pertinent Local, State, or Federal Land Management Agencies: The intent of this recommendation is to reaffirm the relationships FWP has with these organizations/agencies including communicating their collaborations to the public.
Create an A9 Tag Bundle: The intent of this recommendation is to increase harvest and lower populations in hunting districts that are over objective. The reduction of elk populations in over-objective districts will also reduce disease risk associated with overpopulation.
Develop User Friendly and Effective Methods to Collect Data: The intent of this recommendation is to demonstrate transparency on the part of the agency as to data collection methods. It would create ways for the general public to receive, contribute to and find data. This improves stakeholder relationships as everyone feels part of the process.
Establish (where possible) Localized Elk Working Groups: This recommendation encourages communication between landowners, hunters, outfitters, and local FWP biologists. Citizen science would be heard concerning elk movement, and together the group would address redistribution of elk, objectives, access and other related issues. Season structure and number of permits could also be topics.
Expanded Hunter Education: The intent of this recommendation is to improve hunter/landowner relationships with programs similar to the Master Hunter Program. This would improve hunter quality and, with certification possibilities, a potential way for program graduates to access private land to hunt.
Promote Focused Damage Hunts: This recommendation would allow landowners and biologists to have a list of willing, local participants to choose from. This is a harvest tool to help landowners strategically redistribute elk, mitigate disease and improve stakeholder relationships.
Improve Accessibility to the FWP Videos, Programs, PSAs, etc. that Promote the Desired Behaviors between Landowners and Hunters: This recommendation would make existing communication pieces readily available or easy to find.
FWP Landowner Liaison: This recommendation creates a liaison position to work with landowners and creates a communication pathway between community partners. This could improve stakeholder relationships and mitigate disease.
We have to Manage Elk Where They Are Not: The intent of this recommendation is to restore historic elk numbers in northwest Montana to alleviate the excessive elk hunting pressure that is experienced in the rest of the state. This proposal also is intended to strategically redistribute hunters, improve quality access to harvest and encourage better data collection by the department.
Understand and Mitigate the Disease of Brucellosis in Elk: This recommendation recognizes the impacts on livestock producers within the designated surveillance area who deal with the risk of disease transmission from elk to cattle and improve stakeholder relationships.
Use of Shoulder Seasons: The intent would be to assess the benefits of shoulder seasons, redistribute elk, and reduce landowner hunting fatigue, thereby improving relationships between landowners and hunters.
Stakeholder Meetings: This recommendation fulfills one of the key components of the group’s intended purpose – “to forge new relationships among stakeholders.”
Enforce Stricter Penalties for Trespassing and Other Bad Behaviors by Hunters and Landowners: The intent of tougher laws is to discourage trespassing and other unethical behaviors that occur, including landowners illegally blocking or detouring access to public lands. The intent is to improve stakeholder relationships and address quality access to harvest.
To review the recommendations and to comment, go to https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/public-comment-opportunities/emcag-recommendations. The deadline for comment is 5 p.m. Oct. 14.
For more information about the advisory group, including access to meeting recordings go to https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/elk-management-citizen-advisory-group.