The last few decades in Montana have seen a remarkable recovery in wildlife populations. For example, Montana’s elk population was down to almost 20,000 animals in 1940. By 1970, it had increased somewhat to 55,000. But after that, we’ve seen rapid growth to nearly 160,000 animals today. That’s simply an astounding recovery. And other species, like deer and antelope, are at or near all-time highs as well. The restoration of Montana wildlife is due to a number of factors, but the predominant reason is the efforts of Montana landowners. A great deal of the credit goes to private property owners for changing management practices and improving habitat.
The Montana Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case that may affect whether anglers and recreationists can access easements across private property and certain rivers below the high-water mark. The Public Lands Access Association filed the lawsuit in 2004 after Madison County landowner James Cox Kennedy erected electric fences that blocked an easement across his land and leads to the Ruby River. No trespassing signs also were attached to three Madison County bridges. Montanans have the right to use the state’s streams below the high-water mark and the right to use Montana’s public roads to access those streams, Public Lands Access Association attorney Devlan Geddes argued. Kennedy’s attorney, Peter Coffman, disputed that, saying that not only was the public not...
The Montana Supreme Court will hear a case next month that could have far-ranging effects on Montana’s stream access laws. In April 2012, District Judge Loren Tucker ruled that public use of Seyler Lane didn’t guarantee the public access to the Ruby River from a bridge on that road. The bridge is near Twin Bridges, about 50 miles southeast of Butte.
Landowners in central and Eastern Montana received a letter from Fish, Wildlife and Parks last week that essentially threatened them with extortion. Since 2008, FWP has restricted hunting opportunity in these specific areas, with a goal of coercing more access to private land for hunting. FWP mistakenly assumed that a landowner would bargain away private property rights for the price of an elk permit. Instead, the limit has been directly responsible for millions of dollars in lost tourism revenue to the surrounding communities, as well as less access to private land for public hunting.
Regional working groups will soon play a part in elk management, but Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks commissioners voted to retain a larger chunk of the responsibility. At Thursday’s meeting in Helena, the five-member FWP commission gave final approval to a working group’s proposal to modify elk distribution to limit the spread of disease, particularly brucellosis. The plan, given initial approval on Nov. 8, would apply primarily in the regions surrounding Yellowstone National Park, where brucellosis is most prevalent.
The Valley County commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday to join other plaintiffs in a lawsuit aimed at halting Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ transfer of quarantined Yellowstone Park bison to the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap reservations. The lawsuit alleges that FWP violated Montana law by enacting a bison translocation plan without a having a management plan and without adequate analysis of the impacts upon the human environment. SB 212, passed by the legislature in 2011, establishes multiple requirements for FWP in the management of bison that the lawsuit alleges are not being observed. There are 15 plaintiffs, including Jason and Sierra Stoneberg Holt and Rose Stoneberg, who ranch on Timber Creek south of Hinsdale. Also listed are people representing Citizens for Balanced Use, United Property...