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

Radio Ads to Lawmakers: Listen to Voters and Restore Conservation Funds

Montana Wildlife Federation has launched a new radio ad campaign to push back on legislative attempts to divert revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana away from popular public access programs.

Two such bills are being heard in committee this week.  House Bill 670, sponsored by Rep. Skees, R-Kalispell, and House Bill 701, sponsored by Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, would each make significant changes to the successful ballot initiative law that legalized recreational marijuana last November.

And both contain fatal errors according to Frank Szollosi, Executive Director of Montana Wildlife Federation.

“HB 670 and 701 are dead on arrival because they leave out critical funds that voters intended to go toward public access, working farms and ranches, and our state parks and trails,” said Szollosi.  “It’s really very simple.  If lawmakers want to successfully rewrite the ballot initiative this session they need to take more direction from voters on where those revenues go.”

To make their point, Montana Wildlife Federation will air a new radio ad starting tomorrow on stations in Great Falls, Billings, Helena and the Flathead.

The radio ad features 5th generation rancher John Rumney, owner of Rumney Cattle Company, who used the Habitat Montana program in 2018 to place a conservation easement on nearly 4,000 acres of family ranchland.

In the ad, Rumney says boosting the Habitat Montana account as voters intended will benefit more ranchers and hunters and result in more public access.

“It’s time to listen to voters,” says Rumney. “Lawmakers in Helena should restore funds intended to help landowners and hunters find more common ground.”

The radio ads compliment a series of billboards that have been running throughout Helena since early March (photo attached).  

Those billboards direct lawmakers to the online campaign called SaveMyGreatOudoors where hundreds of images and personal testimonials discuss the growing need for more dedicated funding for conservation programs and public lands.  

Contact: Frank Szollosi, 406.417.9909


Photo by Kyle Mlynar.

HB 505 and improving elk management to address populations over objective

Dear Chair Fitzgerald and members of the House FWP committee,

Our organizations represent thousands of Montana hunters. We include statewide organizations and local sporting clubs who all care deeply about our public wildlife, our sporting traditions and our friends and neighbors in the landowner and agricultural community. We’re Montanans who have worked together for decades to solve the difficult issues surrounding public wildlife, access and game damage on the working farms and ranches that are a cornerstone of our state’s economy and lifestyle. 

We extend this letter of commitment to work with you and the Department of Fish, Wildlife and  Parks to find workable solutions to Montana’s over-objective elk populations. While we have serious concerns with the proposals in House Bill 505 – and we ask that this committee take no further action on the bill – we’re confident we can find common ground for ways to address the needs of landowners while ensuring elk are managed as a public resource according to the public trust doctrine. 

We look forward to the Elk Management Plan Initial Guidance Citizens Group report, which is due soon. This process – approved and funded by the Legislature – can provide direction for the solutions and strategies we can deploy during the interim. Building off of that group’s work, we would be open to an interim study to utilize the committee process to identify necessary policy solutions that can enjoy broad support. 

Additionally, there are ongoing discussions aimed at improving the host of programs currently available that incentivize public access, help landowners address problems and ultimately get more elk harvest where needed. Examples include increasing the cap on payments to landowners under the popular Block Management program (especially those in units above elk objectives),  more funding for Habitat Montana to support targeted easements and purchases, and getting more local working groups focusing on elk management in their respective areas. We have also said that the game damage hunt roster could use improvements to be timelier and more effective. 

We need to give those processes and programs a chance to work as they have in many areas of the state.  

While the legislative process can be adversarial in nature, when legislation stalls, it can also serve to highlight the need for collaboration and cooperation to solve problems. We are committed to a public process bringing stakeholders together including hunters, outfitters,  private landowners and the Department to find solutions to our over objective elk populations. 

Please keep HB 505 tabled and let us work with landowners to find common ground to improve elk management in Montana.  

Thank you for your service to the people of Montana.  


Montana Wildlife Federation, Tom Puchlerz, President 

Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers John Sullivan, President

Traditional Bowhunters of Montana, Tim Roberts President 

Bearpaw Bowmen, Nick Siebrasse, Conservation Liaison 

Flathead Wildlife Inc, Jim Vashro, President 

Montana Sportsmen’s Alliance, Jeff Herbert, Conservation Liaison 

Hellgate Hunters and Anglers, Walker Conyngham, President 

Great Falls Archery Club, Jeremy Garness, President 

Helena Hunters and Anglers, Steve Platt, President 

Laurel Rod and Gun Club, JW Westman, Conservation Liaison 

Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument, Mikayla Moss, Executive Director

Bridger Bowmen, Bill Siebrasse, President 

Montana Artemis Alliance, Rachel Buswell, Co-chair 

Anaconda Sportsmen’s Club, Garrett Ouldhouse, President 

Russell Country Sportsmen Association, Randall Knowles, Conservation Liaison

Shell game with voter-approved conservation dollars

March 17, 2021 – Montana Wildlife Federation issued the following statement in response to Representative Hopkins’ (Missoula) legislation to siphon away investment in Montana’s $7 billion recreation economy and undercut ranching families.

“Now comes the shell game with voter-approved conservation dollars,” said Frank Szollosi, MWF executive director. “State politicians just extended the 67th Legislature to divvy up a huge windfall from the federal government, there’s just no sound fiscal rationale to contradict the will of Montana voters. It’s outrageous, actually. These accounts help keep families on their ranches into the future, increase hunter-angler access, and improve our overtaxed state parks.”

“Conservation dollars are economic development, because public lands, waters, wildlife and access are the cornerstone of our multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation economy and the 71,000-plus jobs it supports. Our Great Outdoors are critical to our competitive advantage in attracting businesses and jobs.”

MWF will be joining hunters, anglers, businessowners and landowners for a media event on the north steps of the Capitol at noon Thursday, March 18, to defend the will of Montana’s electorate and deliver a message for our public servants: do not pass.


Contact: Frank Szollosi 406-417-9909

Concerned Professional Wildlife Biologists and Managers in Montana Speak Up

To: Members of the Montana Legislature and Governor Gianforte


We are Montana residents and professional wildlife biologists and managers with a total of  1,696 years of experience in wildlife management and wildlife habitat management. Among us  are 18 retired employees of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks with 534 years with the agency,  and 3 former Commissioners from the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission.  

We stand in opposition to the bills listed below being considered by the Montana Legislature in 2021. We find these bills to be based on misinformation about wildlife, misinformation about the effects of predators on prey species, and a lack of understanding about the complexity of natural environments in Montana. Detailed wildlife policy should be science-based and set by the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission with the input of the public, not by the legislature. These bills will harm the image of hunters and hunting in Montana. For decades Montana has been a leader in science-based wildlife management in the US. These bills are not based on science and are harmful to wildlife and the hunting heritage of Montana.

We strongly oppose the following bills:

HB 224 and HB 225 –Allows neck snaring of wolves and extends the season for wolf trapping – Neck snares set for wolves will result in the capture of many non-target wildlife. The extension of the wolf trapping and snaring season will overlap with the times that grizzly and black bears are out of their dens resulting in bears being caught in wolf snares and traps. Data collected from radio-collared grizzly bears from 2015 through 2020 in Northwest Montana demonstrate that at least 35% of grizzly bears den later than December 1.

SB 267 – Allows paying a bounty to people to kill wolves – Paying people to kill Montana wildlife will harm the image of hunters and hunting in Montana. This is completely unnecessary since each year more than 35% of Montana’s wolf population is killed by wolf hunters and trappers.

SB 337 – Revising laws on relocation of grizzly bears. Will prevent FWP from relocating any
grizzly bears captured outside recovery zones. – This bill is contrary to 40 years of policy and cooperative grizzly management in Montana, it is contrary to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Guidelines, which Montana FWP has been a party to, and it will result in the unnecessary death of many grizzly bears. We are especially appalled that this bill is being promoted by the leadership of MT FWP. This bill will prevent grizzly bears from being delisted in Montana.

HB 468 – Allows hound hunting of black bears and a recreational chase season for hound
hunters. – Hound hunting black bears can result in cub abandonment, chronic stress, heat
exhaustion in warm weather, and abandonment of home ranges. Grizzly bears can be found throughout western Montana and hounds will chase grizzly bears who will fight and kill hounds. This will result in hound hunters shooting grizzly bears to defend their dogs or themselves when chased grizzly bears are encountered. Hound hunting of bears has been banned since 1921 in Montana. Hound hunting of bears is opposed by most hunters and is not considered fair chase hunting by most of the public.

SB 314 – Revises laws related to wolf harvest to allow bait to trap wolves, allows spotlighting of wolves on private lands, allows harvest of an unlimited number of wolves by a license holder. Use of bait near wolf traps will increase the non-target capture of many valuable wildlife species like lynx, wolverine, and fisher, among others. Spotlighting wildlife is contrary to fair-chase hunting and will harm the image of hunters and hunting in Montana. Farmers and ranchers don’t want to get up in the night to find out who is spotlighting and shooting on their property. Unlimited killing of wolves is contrary to sound wildlife management policy and is unnecessary since 35% of the Montana wolf population is killed each year already by wolf hunters and trappers.

SB 306 – Revises the Fish and Wildlife Commission to require 4 of 7 members to be “engaged in agricultural production”. – The Fish and Game commission is the primary policy setting organization for wildlife and fishery management in Montana. The majority of hunters and anglers in Montana are not engaged in agricultural production. This law will mean that the majority of the Commission will be people who are not representative of the hunters and anglers of Montana. This is unnecessary and will be harmful to wildlife and fisheries management in Montana.

As wildlife biologists and wildlife management professionals, we stand opposed to these bills as being harmful to wildlife, harmful to the image of hunters, contrary to science, and wrong for Montana.


Chris Servheen, Ph.D.
35 years US Fish and Wildlife Service as Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator (retired). Missoula, MT.

Richard Mace, Ph.D.
31 years Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as Research Biologist (grizzly and black bears)
(retired). Primarily responsible for grizzly bear population ecology research in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. Kalispell, MT.

Harvey Nyberg, M.S.                                                                                                                               26 years Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, last job as Regional Supervisor (retired). Lewistown, MT.

Gayle Joslin, M.S.
32 years Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks as Wildlife Management Biologist and Research
Biologist (retired). Helena, MT.

Keith Aune, M.S.
41 years: 31 years Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks as Wildlife Research Biologist, Laboratory Supervisor, Chief of Wildlife Research (retired); and 10 years as a wildlife biologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society (retired). Bozeman, MT.

Bruce Sterling, M.S.
38 years Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks as Management Biologist (retired). Thompson Falls, MT.

Jim Vashro, M.S.
39 years Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as a fishery biologist and regional fisheries manager (retired). Kalispell, MT.

Mike Madel, B.S,
40 years: 34 years Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks as Grizzly Bear Management Biologist and Project Leader of Rocky Mountain Front Grizzly Bear Management Program (retired); 6 years UM Border Grizzly Project, US Forest Service, and Fish Wildlife, and Parks as bear habitat and Research Biologist in the Missions and the Cabinet Mountains (retired). Choteau MT.

Diane Boyd, Ph.D.
23 years: 8 years Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as wolf upland bird biologist (retired), 15 years University of Montana as large carnivore researcher (retired). Kalispell, MT.

Ron Marcoux, M.S.
40 years: 22 years Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks as Biologist and Deputy Director (retired); 18 years with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in land conservation and administration (retired). Helena, MT.

Kristi DuBois, M.S.
34 years: 28 years Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as a wildlife biologist (both game and nongame) (retired); and 6 years US Fish and Wildlife Service as a wildlife biologist (retired). Missoula, MT.

Tim Thier, M.S.
32 years: 27 years Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as Wildlife Biologist (retired); 5 years US Fish and Wildlife Service as Wildlife Biologist (retired). Trego, MT.

Heidi B. Youmans, M.S.
27 years Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks as Area Management Biologist, Upland Game Bureau Chief, Non-Game Bureau Chief (retired). Helena, MT.

Bob Wiesner, B.S.
37 years Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks as Wildlife Conflict Specialist and Cougar Research Contractor (retired). Missoula, MT.

Wendy Kamm, B.S.
30 years Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks as Game Warden (retired). Fort Benton, MT.

Graham Taylor, M.S.
42 years Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks as Area Wildlife Biologist and Regional Wildlife
Manager (retired). Great Falls, MT.

Jerry Brown, M.S.
37 years Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as Management Biologist (retired). Libby, MT.

Gary Wolfe, Ph.D.
42 years: 4 years as a Commissioner on the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission, 12 years Vermejo Park Ranch Wildlife Biologist/Manager and big game Hunting Outfitter and Guide; 15 years Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wildlife Biologist/Field Director, Director of Field Operations, Chief Operating Officer, President & CEO (retired); 11 years Vital Ground Foundation, Wildlife Biologist/Executive Director (retired); 60 years a deer and elk hunter. Missoula, MT.

Dan Vermillion, J.D.
13 years as a Commissioner on the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission. Livingston, MT.

Tim Aldrich, B.S.
4 years as a Commissioner on the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission. Missoula, MT.

Greg Munther, M.S.
32 years US Forest Service as Biologist and District Ranger (retired). Missoula, MT.
Chuck Schwartz, Ph.D. 36 years: 20 years, Alaska Fish and Game as Research Biologist (retired); and 16 years USGS as Leader, Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (retired). Bozeman, MT.

Sterling Miller, Ph.D.
21 years Alaska Fish and Game as Wildlife Management Biologist (retired). Affiliate Professor, University of Montana. Lolo, MT.

Dan Carney, M.S.
31 years Blackfeet Tribe as Senior Wildlife Biologist (retired). East Glacier, MT.
William H. Geer, M.S. 40 years: 16 years as a fisheries research biologist, chief of fisheries and director of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (retired); 24 years as a biologist with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (retired). Lolo, MT.

Douglas H. Chadwick, M.S.
43 years: 3 years wildlife technician with NPS, 40 years independent wildlife biologist
collaborating with various university and agency researchers. Whitefish, MT.

Tom Puchlerz, M.S. 38 years US Forest Service as Wildlife Biologist, District Ranger, and Forest Supervisor (retired). Stevensville, MT.

Kate Kendall, M.S.
36 years National Park Service and US Geological Survey as research ecologist (retired). Columbia Falls, MT.

Gary Moses B.S.
35 years; 28 years National Park Service in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks as
Supervisory Ranger (retired); Glacier Bear Management Committee Chair; 7 years as Counter Assault Bear Spray Ambassador (retired). Kalispell, MT.

Glenn Elison, M.S.
25 years US Fish and Wildlife Service as Assistant Regional Director for Refuges and Wildlife (retired). Lewistown, MT.

Joe Fontaine B.S.
28 years: 6 years U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Wildlife Biologist,18 years U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as Deputy Wolf Recovery Coordinator (retired), 4 years as Deputy Project Leader National Wildlife Refuge Complex (retired). Helena, MT.

Dave Wesley, Ph.D.
25 years: 20 years Ducks Unlimited as Director of Field Operations (retired); 5 years Mississippi State University as Associate Professor (retired). Missoula, MT.

Mike Getman, M.S.
35 years US Fish and Wildlife Service as Wildlife Biologist (retired). Lewistown, MT.
Glenn Plum, Ph.D. 25 years National Park Service as Wildlife Biologist (retired). Livingston, MT.

Gerald “Skip” Kowalski, M.S.
38 years US Forest Service as Wildlife Biologist (retired). Stevensville, MT.

Mary Maj, M.S.
32 years US Forest Service as District and Regional Wildlife Biologist, Resource Staff Officer, and District Ranger (retired). Bozeman, MT.

Dale Becker, M.S.
39 years: 7 years as a private wildlife consultant; 32 years Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes as Tribal Wildlife Program Manager. Polson, MT.

Edward Bangs, MS.
36 years US Fish and Wildlife Service as Wildlife Biologist on Kenai NWR and Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Coordinator (retired). Helena, MT.

Jim Claar: M.S.
32 years: 21 years US Forest Service as Wildlife Biologist (retired), and 11 years Bureau of Indian Affairs as Wildlife Program Manager (retired). Missoula, MT.

Jack Stanford, Ph.D.
36 years Flathead Bay Biological Station as Director (retired). Bigfork, MT.
Amanda DelVecchia, Ph.D. 4 years University of Montana and Flathead Lake Biological Station. Bigfork, MT.

Kerry R. Forsman, Ph.D.
37 years University of Montana as Professor of Biology and Wildlife Biology (retired). Missoula MT.

Dan Pletscher, Ph.D.
29 years University of Montana as Professor and Director of the Wildlife Biology Program
(retired). Missoula, MT.

Jay Gore, M.S.
30 years: 10 years US Forest Service as Wildlife Biologist (retired); 13 years US Fish and Wildlife Service as Wildlife Biologist (retired); 7 years Corps of Engineers as Wildlife Biologist (retired). Missoula MT.

Shannon Clairmont, B.S.
18 years Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes as Wildlife Biologist. Ronan, MT.

Mike Phillips, M.S.
35 years: US Fish and Wildlife Service Red Wolf Restoration Leader (retired); National Park Service Grey Wolf Restoration Leader (retired); Turner Endangered Species Fund Executive
Director; Montana State Legislator 2006-2020. Bozeman, MT.

Lewis Young, M.S.
48 years: 31 years US Forest Service as Wildlife Biologist and Wildlife Program Manager (retired); 17 years as consultant with National Park Service, Bureau of Land management, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (retired). Eureka, MT.

Art Soukkala, M.S.
30 years Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes as a Wildlife Biologist working on Wildlife Conflicts and Restoring Wildlife Populations and Habitat. Charlo, MT.

Whisper Camel-Means, M.S.
24 years Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes as a Wildlife Biologist. Polson, MT.

Harold Picton, Ph.D. 

50 years Montana State University as Professor of Wildlife Management. Bozeman, MT. 

Kari Eneas, M.S. 

12 years Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes as a Wildlife Biologist and grizzly bear  conflict manager. Polson, MT.  

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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.