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Montana outdoors: More funds sought for hunting access programs
Mark Henckel

Montana's Private Land/Public Wildlife Advisory Council has a tough job ahead.

It's not the continued existence of the state's hunter management and hunter access programs. Even though the next Legislature needs to re-authorize those programs, that's pretty much assured by their popularity.

No, the tough part comes in when the PL/PW tries to create new and more lucrative funding for the popular Block Management Hunting Program and, it hopes, the FWP Private Land Fishing Access Program which mirror it for Montana's anglers.

Currently, the funding sources for Block Management are the variable-priced outfitter-sponsored B10 and B11 nonresident hunting licenses, resident and nonresident Hunting Access Enhancement Fees and $55 of the $110 nonresident upland bird license.

The council has determined that more funding is needed.

As a result, the PL/PW has adopted a list of 12 draft recommendations that it hopes will guide the funding process and line out the legislation that needs to be drafted to achieve its goals. The PL/PW is also seeking public comment on those proposals until Aug. 4.

Here's a look at some of the funding proposals:

Montana Access Partners decal

The PL/PW hopes to create an annual "Montana Access Partners" decal which can be purchased for $10.

Purchases of the decal would be voluntary, but they would be a way for hunters, fishermen and recreationists to show their support for access programs.

All money raised through the decal sales would be dedicated to helping fund access programs.

Trust fund

The PL/PW hopes FWP establishes a trust fund, perhaps to be administered through the FWP Foundation, where donations could be made.

The rationale for the trust fund would be its ability to attract larger contributions by individuals or corporate sponsors. Those donating would have an economic incentive through tax and estate planning benefits.

The interest income from the trust fund would be used to help fund hunting access programs.

Big Game Super Tag

Other states have created what are called Big Game Super Tags which is a lottery-based drawing for special licenses.

Under such a program, an unlimited number of chances would be sold for drawings for one moose, one sheep, one mountain goat, one elk and one deer license.

Proceeds from the sales would go into helping fund the hunting access programs. Similar drawings have proven to be popular in other states and would provide a good deal of funding from many sources, not just one.

Landowner-sponsored B-10 license

FWP would create a new category of hunting license, a landowner-sponsored B-10 elk/deer combination license with net proceeds earmarked for hunting access programs.

A total of 500 such licenses would be created and they wouldn't count against the current state limit of 17,000 B-10 licenses. Landowners could sponsor no more than two hunters. License-holders would be restricted to the sponsoring landowner's deeded land and interior inholdings of state and federal land.

Licenses would be nontransferable and the landowner would have to designate the individual hunters in advance of the drawings.

Access Guide advertising

If FWP determines it's feasible, advertising would be sold in the state's annual Hunting Access Guides. Montana sold advertising for the 2004 deer and elk hunting regulations. It wasn't feasible for the moose, sheep and goat regulations booklet.

If advertising is shown to be profitable, it would offset some administrative costs of the hunting access programs.

Other recommendations

Other recommendations that made it to draft form and are being considered would affect incentives for landowners participating in the state's access programs.

One such change would allow landowners to receive a complimentary hunting license in addition to money for the hunters allowed on their lands. Currently, the situation is either-or.

Another recommendation would allow the landowner to designate a family member or employee to receive a complimentary license.

Currently, only the landowner can receive it.

Still others would improve Block Management maps, refine other incentives to landowners and authorize more game wardens and hunting access personnel to patrol areas under the program.

The PL/PW will accept public comment through Aug. 4 on the proposals.

Comments can be submitted electronically through the FWP Web site at or in writing to: Alan Charles, Coordinator of Landowner/ Sportsman Rela-tions, PO Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620.

Mark Henckel is the outdoor editor of The Billings Gazette. He can be contacted at 657-1395 or at

Recommendation list

Here are the 12 draft recommendations of Montana's Private Land/Public Wildlife Advisory Council regarding the state's hunting access program, including Block Management, which are being opened to public comment before Aug. 4.

Comments can be submitted electronically through FWP's Web site or in writing to: Alan Charles, Coordinator of Landowner/Sportsman Relations, PO Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620.

Here is the list:

• Re-authorize existing program by repealing sunset provisions attached to program statutes and assure continuation of a citizens' review committee.

• FWP should create a "Montana Access Partners" decal, made available through voluntary purchase at an amount of $10 annually, with revenue dedicated to helping fund access programs.

• FWP should establish a trust fund, which could perhaps be administered through the FWP Foundation, providing for voluntary donations with the interest income dedicated to helping fund hunting access programs.

• FWP should create a Big Game Super Tag program, with unlimited chances sold for a special tag, one each for moose, sheep, goat, elk and deer, in a lottery-type system which provides for random selection of the permit recipients, with proceeds from the sales dedicated to helping fund the hunting access programs.

• FWP should create a new category of license, a Landowner-Sponsored B-10 Elk/Deer Combination License, subject to the following provisions

• No more than 500 licenses created; licenses do not count against the 17,000 limit;

• Licenses are nontransferable;

• No landowner may sponsor more than two hunters;

• Landowners must designate hunters in advance of license being issued;

• License sells for same price as same type license in general category;

• Landowner must enter into contractual public hunting access agreement with FWP for eligibility to sponsor hunters;

• Net proceeds will be earmarked for hunting access programs;

• Use of the license restricted to the sponsoring landowner's deeded land and interior inholdings of state and federal land where the sponsoring landowner has exclusive authority to grant access.

• Only if FWP determines it is economically feasible, sale of advertising in the Hunting Access Guides should be considered a possible source of revenue for funding the hunting access programs.

• Allow nonresident cooperators to receive complimentary license AND compensation. (Currently nonresident cooperators are eligible to receive complimentary license OR compensation, but not both).

• Allow Block Management Cooperator eligible to receive complimentary license to designate immediate family member or an employee who is employed by such owner or owners as a ranch manager or in a similar capacity to receive the complimentary license instead. (Currently only cooperators are eligible to receive complimentary license).

• FWP should continue to improve and standardize BMA maps, incorporating landowner input for increased accuracy.

• Remove restrictions on impact payments for species/season restrictions under certain wildlife management situations

• FWP should hire more game wardens and hunting access technicians, with duties assigned specifically to provide better patrol, management and enrollment of properties in Block Management.

• Re-authorize FWP Private Land Fishing Access Program.

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