FWP Launches Habitat Improvement Program

Hunters and landowners have an invaluable partnership when it comes to wildlife conservation.

One of the areas where hunters and landowners came together last year in the state Legislature was the need to improve wildlife habitat on public and private lands.

With that shared goal, the Montana Wildlife Federation joined Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, agriculture groups and others to support House Bill 434. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Flynn, R-Townsend, sets up the Montana Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program. It passed and was signed by Gov. Steve Bullock with bi-partisan support.

That was the easy part. The hard work comes now as diverse interests come together to build this program. Here’s how it works.

The bill requires that FWP establish a committee with agriculture groups, hunters and other interest to review grant applications. The money can come from the Habitat Montana program, as well as federal Pittman-Robertson dollars. Grants require matching funds from the applicant. And they are reviewed and approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

All of these measures are meant to ensure that projects to control weeds or make other habitat improvements are worthy, and will benefit specific native wildlife species. They will go through a public review with ample public comment. And they will require the buy-in from local interests to make them successful.

Hunters share with landowners the desire to combat noxious weeds. They crowd out native grasses, and that’s bad for native wildlife. They reduce the capacity of the land to provide forage for wildlife, and they almost always spread once they’re established in an area.

Working together, hunters and landowners forged this measure. It’s just another example that we share some common values and have an invaluable partnership when it comes to wildlife conservation.

That partnership will be essential to making the program work.

Nick Gevock is the conservation director for the Montana Wildlife Federation.