Last week, Montana Senate Bill 397, for "Establishing provisional hunting seasons for certain large predators" passsed through the state Senate...and tomorrow goes to the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee. This legislation would establsih more aggressive management of wolves, bears and mountain lions, in an effort to curb excessive depredation of elk, moose, deer and other big game - ONLY in those hunt districts that have been hard hit by predators. Many of the those districts have lost as much as 80-percent of their elk herds, perhaps even more of their moose populatons, and now have deer populations that are barely half of what they were 10 to 15 years ago.
Surprisingly, the Montana Bowhunters Association has come out in opposition of SB397.
Joelle Selk, MBA president and legislative chairman has issued a legislative alert to members of the organization, urging them to contact legislators to insist that the bill be defeated, commenting, "Despite its seemingly limited scope, this bill impacts bear, lion and wolf hunting regulations as well as threatens multiple delisting actions. The MBA has supported increased harvest and expanded seasons during recent Tentatives cycles. Proper management of bear populations depends on responsible harvest and population monitoring to determine harvest impact. Proponents of this bill argue that we need to have more aggressive predator control measures. We believe the FWP has taken an effective and responsible approach to controlling predators."
Following is an e-mail that LOBO WATCH sent to the members of the MT House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee...
Dear Members of the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee;
The Montana Bowhunters Association has come out in opposition of SB397, which would establish provisional hunting seasons to reduce the number of predators that are currently ravaging big game populations in the Western 1/3 of Montana.
Either that organization has lost all touch with the reality of what we've lost, or they simply don't understand that the problem, all along, has been Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The agency has bent over backwards to hide the truth from the sportsmen of this state...to cover up the true numbers of wolves, bears and lions in Montana...and went so far as to actually lie about the degree of damage predators have dealt elk, moose, deer and other big game - until they could no longer keep the truth hidden. (Example: For the past five or six years, FWP has claimed that the entire state's grizzly population to be 600 to 800. Under pressure from angry sportsmen who saw elk nearly disappear in Region 1, at a very heated meeting in Kalispell, the regional wildlife manager openly claimed that there were 1,000 of the bears in that region alone - and that the number of wolves in that region was 2 or 3 times what FWP claimed. The same lies and deceit are practiced in other FWP regions as well.)
Like so many sportsmen who spend so much time afield, I've seen the damage first hand. And like so many sportsmen who will now turn against the Montana Bowhunters Association for going against legislation that offers some emergency relief from predator impact, I find it extremely difficult to accept that any group of real sportsmen who have witnessed the game losses would still bow down and worship the phony agency which has worked all too willingly with those who brought this disaster to our state and our hunting heritage.
Apparently MBA President Joelle Selk hasn't really absorbed what SB397 is truly all about. The legislation does NOT open overly liberal seasons on all predators across the state...it simply calls for more dramatic reductions of wolf, bear and lion numbers in those hunt districts where big game populations have been devastated by depredation. Thus, the term "provisional seasons".
If the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee shoots this legislation down, big game hunting in Western Montana will come to an end. It is now far closer to being lost than what FWP will admit. The sportsmen of this state have lost all trust in the agency, and when the word gets out that the Montana Bowhunters Association is fighting this last ditch effort to take control of predator problems, I have a feeling that membership in that organizaiton will begin to nose dive.
Here is a look at what this legislation is really all about -