The things that make Montana special can be hard to define. It’s the unique culture and sense of community you feel in towns across the state. It’s the particular ethics Montanans share related to hard work, to our land, and to our kinsfolk. It’s the shared traditions and history from our past that shape our present and future. Montana is a rare thing, and delicate too. Those things that make us special are worth fighting for and protecting.
The rights to own, use, and enjoy the property we own are foundational to our society and system of free enterprise. All too often, however, those rights are diminished by overzealous, overreaching government intrusions. The Rural Montana Foundation is dedicated to helping Montana farmers, ranchers, and other property owners in rural areas who cannot afford their own legal representation.
Montana’s property owners have always been the stewards of our state’s incredible landscapes and habitats. They know that a vibrant economy is the most important precondition to having healthy land, water, and air. That’s why we need balance in all our environmental regulations—just as we can’t allow unchecked pollution to be emitted by industrial operations, neither can we allow unchecked red tape to stop economic opportunity.
All Montanans deserve access to our public land and resources, but at an increasing rate Montanans are losing that access, and the economic opporutnities that can go along with it. We believe in multiple use of public land—including wise stewardship of through timber harvests and livestock grazing. We believe in robust recreational access through public land, but never forced access through private land. Montana’s public land is our heritage, and it should be managed by Montanans and for Montanans.
Damage to crops, forage, and physical structures has been an increasing burden on Montana landowners. This is especially true in areas that the Montana Fish & Game Commission has limited hunting opportunity through limited-entry permits. All but one hunting district with limited-entry permits is over-objective. Twelve limited-entry districts have populations more than four times the objective level.
The Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks has done little to assess the damage that these excess elk populations are causing on landowners. In December 2022, the Rural Montana Foundation sent a survey to every farmer & rancher in the eighteen counties that overlap with FWP’s limited-entry permit hunting districts. We received 431 responses, and the results were illuminating on the massive costs being imposed by excess elk herds.
Elk management in Montana has long been a divisive topic, subject to intense political pressure and widely differing opinions on how best to manage Montana’s elk herds. But while this debate has continued over the years, elk populations have ballooned to unhealthy and unsustainable levels in many areas of the state. It’s clear that existing policies related to elk management are not working and a new approach is needed.
The Rural Montana Foundation is pleased to present Improving Elk Management in Montana, a comprehensive report detailing the problems with the current approach to elk management and offering several innovative solutions that would increase access and hunter opportunity, address the concerns of landowners, and achieve sustainable populations.