By Zach Widner, Northwest States Senior Manager
On February 12, the Montana Senate Fish and Game Committee held a hearing on HB 94, a bill that would provide additional incentives to encourage landowners to allow public access for hunting on their lands.
This bill, sponsored by Montana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Zach Brown, would authorize the use of various incentives for landowners who participate in the state’s Block Management Program to allow hunting access on their private property. Among the types of incentives that would be offered are direct payments for “…general ranch maintenance, conservation efforts, weed control, fire protection, liability insurance, roads, fences, and parking area maintenance.” Factors used in determining the benefits available to landowners include: the number/type of species that can be hunted on the land in question, habitat quality, number of public hunting days that the landowner elects to provide, and the available access to adjacent public lands.
This bill would also allow participating landowners in Block Management who are eligible to receive resident combination sporting licenses (in this case of nonresident landowners, nonresident big game and elk combination licenses) to also receive the necessary license prerequisites free of charge. These include a base hunting license, aquatic invasive species prevention pass, and wildlife conservation license.
The bill previously passed 90-7 in the Montana House of Representatives on January 24.
As the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has noted, people who no longer hunt or fish have consistently cited lack of access to places to hunt and fish among the primary reasons for giving up the sport, necessitating the need to explore new options for increasing access to both public and private lands. HB 94 fits squarely in that need for unique approaches to solving access issues.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?