Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful

Biden Administration’s ‘Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful’ will benefit Montana hunters and anglers.

On Thursday, the Biden Administration released a report, Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful, detailing a bold vision to conserve America’s lands and waters through locally-led conservation efforts. The concept has broad support from the sporting community such as Hunt Fish 30×30, a coalition of nearly 60 state and national sporting organizations. In response to today’s announcement, the Montana Wildlife Federation applauded the report and its emphasis on restoring valuable fish and wildlife habitat and mitigating the impacts of climate change. 

“The Biden-Harris Administration’s bold plan to conserve and restore America’s lands and waters should be applauded by hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Along with confronting the impacts of climate change, it will help create jobs, catalyze collaborative, locally driven conservation efforts and will aid in the recovery of many fish and wildlife species that are currently at risk of extinction,” said Frank Szollosi, executive director for the Montana Wildlife Federation. 

The report, which was released to the National Climate Task Force, outlines the Administration’s priorities in achieving the 30×30 initiative, a plan to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters over the next decade. Specifically, the principles of locally led conservation efforts in the report give significant recognition to the stewardship of America’s lands and waters by farmers, ranchers, tribal nations, hunters and anglers. 

Today’s report shows that the Administration is committed to understanding the needs of local communities to achieve conservation priorities, as well as bolstering our outdoor recreation economy and providing more access for hunters and anglers to enjoy our public lands and waters” said Szollosi.

Outfitter License Bill Creates Tags for Special Interests

Early in the 2021 Montana Legislature, the Senate Fish and Game committee heard from more than a thousand hunters who spoke strongly against a bill to create outfitter-sponsored nonresident big-game licenses. But after the initial effort to create these licenses failed, outfitters slipped a similar measure into a bill at the last minute in a terrible display of swamp-style politics. 

SB 143, sponsored by Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, would have designated 60 percent of all the big game combination licenses for nonresidents as outfitter sponsored tags. The bill failed as proposed. 

Montanans said they support equal chance to draw a license for – including nonresidents who want to come here on a do-it-yourself hunt. But just as important, Montana hunters and non-residents alike were opposed because SB 143 had not been discussed with anyone other than outfitting interests. 

Fast forward about two months, to the final days of the session, and the same thing happened with HB 637, which FWP dubbed its clean-up bill for the session. Special interests had inserted in the bill an amendment that gives unlimited outfitters sponsored licenses this year. And permanently gives nonresident hunters using an outfitter an extra preference point for the coveted combination licenses. 

Montana hunters offered a solution of simply moving up the drawing date, so outfitters would know whom to market their services to. HB 637 is the worst example of a special interest exerting influence over the allocation of our public wildlife. It’s swamp-style politics at its worst. 

MWF joined many of our affiliates and conservation partners requesting the governor veto this bad bill. You can read the letter here.

Bad Bills and Bison

The 67th Montana Legislative Session set wildlife conservation back by decades in our great state and this is most apparent in the all-out assault on bison restoration. With just two bills, House Bill 302 and House Bill 318, this legislature was able to severely hamper any and all efforts to restore our national mammal on public lands in our eastern prairies where they once roamed.

Whereas House Bill 318 further restricts the definition of a wild bison to the point of being nearly impossible to meet, House Bill 302 gives county commissions the authority to be the deciding voice in whether wild bison can be translocated within their respective counties. Alone these bills present significant hurdles to restoring a free-roaming wild bison herd, but together they effectively kill any opportunity to restore this species. In many ways, the state has only achieved the result of hamstringing its own authority over wildlife while also ignoring the will of the majority of Montanans. Federal land agencies have stated their intent to establish wild bison on federal lands in appropriate places through the Trump administration’s Bison Conservation Initiative, and this can be done with, or without, the Gianforte administration.

To sum it up, Montana hunters and wildlife conservationists have been asking for a free-roaming wild bison herd for decades and, just when collaborative efforts were about to yield substantial results, one legislative session has set the clock back well over a decade. The Montana Wildlife Federation has submitted a request to Governor Gianforte asking him to veto these bills and respect the years of your hard work to begin restoration of this valued native wildlife species.  

Nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning to head the Bureau of Land Management

Tracey Stone-manning headshot

Montana Hunters and Anglers Praise Nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning to Head Bureau of Land Management

 

HELENA, MT (April 22nd, 2020) — Today President Biden announced the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning to head the Bureau of Land Management. The move was applauded by the Montana Wildlife Federation and its affiliates.

“Tracy Stone-Manning’s steadfast leadership in the conservation of public lands has been recognized by just about everybody who cares about the outdoors,” said Frank Szollosi, executive director for the Montana Wildlife Federation. “She will be a strong leader at the Department of Interior, and both Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines should work swiftly to confirm her as the next BLM Director.”

“As a sportswoman herself, Tracy Stone-Manning recognizes the need to preserve hunting and angling opportunities for future generations,” said Walker Conyngham, president of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers. “We’re relieved to finally have a candidate for BLM leadership who has experience in working on federal land issues and who understands Montana values. She deserves a swift confirmation in the Senate.”

Stone-Manning, an avid hunter, is well known for working on Montana conservation issues. As a senior advisor at the National Wildlife Federation, she led efforts to conserve iconic Montana landscapes and restore balance to public lands management throughout the U.S. She also served as chief of staff for former Governor Steve Bullock and director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

“It has truly been an honor and a pleasure to work with Tracy Stone-Manning over the past three years. As a hunter, backpacker, birder, and conservationist, she has a deep love for the public lands she will now manage. She also has a management style that will be welcomed by not only the employees who work at the Bureau of Land Management, but by members of Congress, industry officials, ranchers, conservation groups, and all other stakeholders who live, work and recreate on our public lands. Tracy is a consensus builder and a brilliant big-picture thinker. She will lead our public lands and the people, economies, and wildlife that rely on them into a bright and sustainable future. Her nomination is good news for Montana and our country,” said Marcia Brownlee, Montanan and program manager for the National Wildlife Federation’s Artemis Sportswomen initiative.

“The Friends of the Missouri Breaks applaud the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning to head the Bureau of Land Management. Tracy is a known leader in the conservation community and will ensure that Montana’s most cherished landscapes, like the Missouri Breaks, are protected for all Americans to enjoy,” said Mikayla Moss, acting executive director for the Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument.

Stone-Manning would play a lead role in expanding access to BLM lands, ensuring outdated oil and gas leasing policies are updated to protect fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation, and tackling the climate crisis through the establishment of a 21st-century civilian climate corps which would restore degraded public lands while creating thousands of good-paying jobs.

“We are pleased to see a Montanan who understands access issues nominated to oversee much of our public lands,” said Drewry Hanes, executive director of the Public Land Water Access Association. “Tracy Stone-Manning has a strong record of working to protect and expand access to our public lands and we look forward to working with her after her confirmation by the Senate.”

Stone-Manning would be the first confirmed BLM Director since 2017, joining other Montanans in Department of Interior leadership such as principal deputy director of the USFS, Martha Williams and Danna Jackson, counselor to the BLM Director.

MWF requests veto of seven anti-predator bills

MWF requests veto of seven anti-predator bills

The Montana Wildlife Federation submitted a letter to Gov. Gianforte this week requesting vetoes of seven bills that amount to an extreme change in decades of management of predator wildlife species in the state.

“Our ethical lines are meant to maintain fair chase for all wildlife, protect other wildlife species from incidental capture and injury, and uphold values and practices that sustain the public’s respect for hunters and hunting,” Tom Puchlerz, MWF president, said in the letter. “That line is clearly being crossed this legislative session through a suite of bills that amount to an all-out fervor against predator species.”

The letter requests vetoes of bills that collectively would allow snaring, night spotlighting, and baiting of wolves. They would also create a bounty for wolves, and allow the take of multiple wolves with one license in an effort to drive their numbers down to a bare minimum number.

Black bear hunting in Montana would change too. One bill, HB 468, would allow the use of hounds to pursue black bears and create a spring chase season.

Grizzly bears, which remain protected as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, would have their management changed under two bills. One would bar Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’ bear managers from relocating any bear found outside the federal recovery zones. Another bill would allow people to kill any bear perceived as threatening livestock, which runs counter to federal protections.

MWF as the leading wildlife conservation and sporting organization in Montana supports science-based management of wildlife, including fair chase hunting. But these bills ignore decades of state leadership in management that has resulted in reduced livestock depredations, fewer human conflicts with proper prevention efforts, and solid conservation outcomes. That has come as these species have been conserved in the state.

The bills that MWF requested vetoes on are HB 224, HB 225, HB 468, SB 267, SB 314, SB 98 and SB 337.

 

READ THE LETTER HERE: MWF veto request for anti-predator bills

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Alec Underwood

Federal Conservation Campaigns Director

Alec is responsible for developing and implementing MWF’s federal conservation advocacy and policy campaigns to protect Montana’s fish and wildlife. He spends most of his free time hunting big game and fly fishing Montana’s cherished trout rivers. He also enjoys backpacking, skiing, photography, and woodworking. 

alec@mtwf.org