Elk near subdivision in Bozeman

Debby Barrett: It’s time for FWP to follow the law on elk management

Montana’s elk population has tripled over the last 40 years.  For decades we have exceeded the sustainable objective levels in most hunting districts.  FWP’s goal is 92,000 elk in Montana, but today there are an estimated 175,000.  That excess elk population causes immense damage to family ranch operations in overpopulated areas, and it’s a problem that grows worse every year. What’s frustrating is we saw this problem coming years ago and set policy to address it.  In 2003 I sponsored House Bill 42, which mandated that the Montana Fish & Game Commission use all management tools available in order to keep big game populations at objective levels.  That legislation specified that the Commission should use “liberalized harvests, game damage hunts, landowner...

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Debunking the elk privatization myth

In a recent opinion piece, state legislators Tom France and Pat Flowers try to make the case that Governor Gianforte is planning to “privatize” Montana’s elk herds at the behest of greedy ranchers. In a bizarre twist of logic, the foundation of their thesis is the fact that those same ranchers are suing the Gianforte administration for improper elk management. Even if their narrative quickly unravels under scrutiny, it deserves a response. France and Flowers know perfectly well that no governor can privatize elk. Commercial elk farms were banned in Montana with the passage of I-143 in 2000. Elk, like all wildlife, are a public resource managed by government trustees for the benefit of all. In Montana, no one can own elk—this is not in dispute. The lawsuit brought against the state...

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elk-objectives

Why we’re suing to fix elk management

In a few areas of the state elk populations have been allowed to grow to crisis proportions. For example, in hunting district 417 in Fergus County, the elk population is estimated at 4,300 animals—that’s eleven and a half times more than the sustainable population objective set by state wildlife biologists. Excessive elk populations have caused an untenable hardship for the ranchers who provide habitat. This is an area suffering from extreme drought, grasshoppers, and wildfire in recent years. Many cattle producers last year reduced their mother cow herds by 25 percent or more. BLM has notified ranchers in this area of a 30 percent reduction in AUMs for this year due to a shortage of grass. These difficulties are compounded by elk populations grown wildly beyond what is considered...

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"Montana prairie (#0306)" by DB's travels is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Conservation Easements are Big Business

(Liberty Matters News Service) Syndicated conservation easements have once again turned up on the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) 2021 “Dirty Dozen” tax scam list. They were first added to the list of schemes the IRS finds are the most fraudulent in 2019. The syndicated conservation easement practice the IRS is targeting is when it is used as an investment tool, instead of a legitimate charity “gift.” Investors purchase property they can place in a conservation easement, and then divide the property among its clients. The conservation easement on the property is contracted through a willing land trust, and the charitable tax-deduction is split among the client owners. What has caught the IRS’s attention is that many of these syndicated conservation easements have substantially increased...

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"Found Photo - US MT Cows in Montana 1969.tif" by David Pirmann is licensed under CC BY 2.0

APR’s ranch buying spree has negative impact on Montana taxpayers

The ink is dry on another historic cattle ranch in the Upper Missouri River Breaks consumed by the non-profit organization American Prairie Reserve (APR). With a deal to acquire the 73 Ranch, another piece of Montana’s history and leading industry has been gobbled up by the billionaires that fund APR, at the expense of Montana taxpayers. Non-profits claiming to be conservationists rob taxpayers in a couple of different ways. Donations to APR to purchase ranch property come with lucrative tax deductions. With their privileged tax status, every dollar APR receives leaves our government coffers with less than they otherwise would have.

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Updated elk population counts underscore importance of improving management

The most recent elk population counts show a disturbing trend of Montana’s elk herd increasing to crisis levels in many areas of the state. Three quarters of Montana’s hunting districts have an elk population above the sustainable population objective set by the Montana Fish & Game Commission, with over thirty districts at more than double the objective number. “This has been the trend for years—the elk population continues to grow far beyond what the biologists estimate as a healthy, sustainable level,” said Chuck Denowh, the policy director of United Property Owners of Montana. “Today we are at nearly double the number of elk that we should have in Montana.”

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