Montana Removes Barrier to Student Hunter and Angler Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation

Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Rocky Mountain States Senior Coordinator, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation 

Highlights:

  • College students have emerged as a key demographic for recruiting life-long hunters and anglers.
  • House Bill 647 (HB 647) reduces financial barriers to hunter and angler recruitment efforts of non-resident college students and exposes more individuals to positive hunting and fishing experiences, resulting in a larger sportsmen-friendly voting population in Montana and nationwide.
  • HB 647 was signed into law by Governor Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Greg Gianforte’s desk on April 30.

Why it Matters:  Sportsmen and women play an integral and unique role in providing the majority of state-level conservation funding in the United States through the American System of Conservation Funding. Since the inception of this System, state fish and wildlife agencies have received over $71 billion from sportsmen and women nationwide. Specific to Montana, sportsmen and women provided over $80 million to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in 2020 alone. As the primary funding source for state-based conservation, it is imperative that recruitment efforts are successful to counteract the nationwide downward trend in sportsmen and women participation. Today’s college students are tomorrow’s wildlife managers, political and business leaders, and members of conservation organizations. Students that learn about the important role of hunting and fishing in society will be essential to the long term viability of the outdoor sporting community.

In an increasingly urbanized society, college students have emerged as a key demographic for recruiting life-long hunters and anglers. Despite spending 9 months out of the year, or more, in the state, non-resident college students are often priced out of formative outdoor experiences due to the high costs of hunting and fishing licenses. Recognizing the need to foster the next generation of sportsmen and women, Montana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Rep. Steven Galloway worked collaboratively with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), Boone and Crockett Club, and University of Montana Boone and Crockett Wildlife Conservation Program, to address the cost prohibitive nature of non-resident college student hunting and fishing license fees through House Bill 647 (HB 647).

HB 647 allows non-resident college students to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at resident rates, so long as their home state offers a similar program, known as reciprocity. Those students who come from states without reciprocity will still be allowed to purchase hunting and angling licenses at half the cost of a regular non-resident license.

"The legislative expertise and experience of Ellary TuckerWilliams and the CSF team were critical throughout each phase of this effort,” said Joshua Millspaugh, Boone and Crockett Professor at University of Montana. “The combined forces of CSF, the Boone and Crockett Club, and the University of Montana Boone and Crockett Wildlife Conservation Program allowed us to connect with key lawmakers and stakeholder groups to produce and pass a bipartisan bill. The new fee structure for non-resident students will empower Montana's campus-based hunter recruitment programs to reach their full potential and hopefully spur other states to adopt similar laws."

“Since I started college at the University of Montana four years ago, I saw how students were being priced-out of an opportunity to hunt and fish. At the same time, programs to recruit student hunters and anglers were expanding and gaining popularity on campus. I'm excited to see how the passage of HB 647 will make hunting and fishing part of the Montana college experience while contributing to nationwide initiatives to recruit young-adult hunters,” said Jonathan Karlen, University of Montana undergraduate student.

“The Boone and Crockett Club is pleased to enable more young people to take to the field. We appreciate the support from the Montanan Legislature and Governor Gianforte and look forward to moving similar efforts in other states in partnership with CSF and University of Montana,” stated Tony Schoonen, Chief Executive Officer of Boone and Crockett.

HB 647 passed both the Montana House and Senate with an overwhelming majority, and Governor Sportsmen’s Caucus member Governor Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law on April 30, highlighting Montana’s dedication to the persistence of our shared outdoor heritage and wildlife conservation

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