Archery elk permit process takes millions from Breaks communities


September 12, 2019

With small Montana communities, especially in the eastern part of the state, struggling to sustain themselves, we don’t need the state government to make their struggle harder. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks did in 2007 when it limited archery elk permits in hunting districts within the Missouri River Breaks. In February 2008, the FWP Commission voted to adopt this motion and set the archery draw quota to 65 percent of the “historical permits.” This action, by law, reduced the non-resident, NR, hunters to 10 percent of these historical permits.

Between 2009 and 2016, the reduction reduced the number of non-resident hunting days by more than 38,000, resulted in millions of dollars vanishing from the rural Breaks communities (numbers based on “FWP harvest report”). This has reduced tourism business by over $10 million and caused some businesses to shut their doors as a result ( ).

Why would the Commission implement regulation that would take millions of tourism dollars from the rural communities in the Breaks? Biological science shows that the affected Hunting Districts were at, or above, FWP’s target elk population numbers. Obviously, it was not science. Then, why move to “limited archery elk permits?” Since the implementation of the Limited Archery Elk permits elk numbers have grown even further above population objectives, with HD700 rising to 628 percent of objective.

After reviewing the FWP’s supporting documentation, it becomes quite clear the root cause was to curb the number of NR hunters, in particular outfitted NR clients, in order to curtail land leasing being made with private landowners. By regulating the archery elk permits in the Breaks, the Department of FWP strategized they would be able to force landowners to the table to negotiate land access. To quote the FWP from Dec. 7, 2007, “While any limited permit adoption may not reverse or prevent existing leases, the limited structure and annual uncertainty it brings arguably facilitates leasing to a lesser degree. From that, limited permits may reduce both rate and volume of future leasing efforts.” Furthermore, “it seems that only after all parties (come to the table) and are equally aware, respectful, and dependent upon one another can effective and sincere collaboration begin. It is to that (start) this proposal and others like it also endeavor.”

The regulatory action to try and open more private land access has undeniably failed. Instead, local sportsmen have lost hunting opportunities because landowners reacted by denying access that was generously granted prior to the “limited archery elk permits.”

Further proof that this little experiment by the FWP and FWP Commission has failed miserably is the fact that the Limited Archery Elk permits have not only limited the NR hunter but between 2013 and 2019 there has been 2,251 Montana Resident archery elk hunters that have not drawn a permit in HD410-21 alone. Thus, resident bow hunters including myself, are losing hunting opportunities needlessly.

The Commission claimed that the system was designed to assure all resident bow hunters would draw a “limited permit” in the Breaks “if” they put in for the drawing as 1st Choice. They were promised they would never have to “choose their weapon.” Yet, in all these hunting districts that is exactly what has happened.

Without question it’s time to make some changes. Now is the time, FWP is beginning their Biennial Season Setting Process (for the 2020 & 2021 seasons). This process allows us the opportunity to update this unsuccessful permitting system. I make no specific recommendations. However, I am asking you to contact the FWP Commission and request they conceptualize some regulation that will help bring back “tourism dollars” to the Breaks Communities, provide for better management of our elk resources, and truly increase hunter opportunity.

Contact Info: All FWP Commission: [email protected]; Individual Commissioners: Tim Aldrich, [email protected]; Pat Byorth, [email protected]; Richard Stuker, [email protected]; Logan Brower, [email protected]; Shane Colton [email protected] FWP: Director Williams [email protected], Gary Bertellotti Reg. 4, [email protected]; Barb Beck Reg. 5, [email protected]: Brad Schmitz Reg. 7, [email protected] .


Sen. Doug Kary, R-Billings, represents Senate District 22


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