Hunters and Outfitters Unite at ‘Elk Camp at the Capitol’

Hunters and Outfitters Unite at ‘Elk Camp at the Capitol’ as they roll out a legislative agreement to improve relationships and wildlife management.

More than one hundred hunters and outfitters participated in “Elk Camp at the Capitol’ on Tuesday at the Helena Capitol building.

The event was hosted by the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition to facilitate conversations between hunters and lawmakers active in the 68th Montana Legislature.

Speakers at the event, including Governor Greg Gianforte, reinforced the need for unity and collaboration between hunters, landowners, and outfitters to help resolve contentious wildlife policy debates.

“Hunting and our outdoor heritage are part of who we are as Montanans,” Governor Greg Gianforte said. “Coming to the table together, the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association and the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition have found common ground and built broad consensus among hunters, landowners, and outfitters. We look forward to working with them closely this session.”

“This is about working together to set the stage for new directions and further the conversation about elk and wildlife management in Montana,” said George Bettas, of the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition, who emceed the event.

During the event, the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition and the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association shared a consensus package of legislation they say represents the first legislative agreement to bring the outfitting and hunting community together since the 2007 Legislature.

The legislative package includes reforms to landowner preferences and the 454 program, strengthens trespass and hunter harassment rules, provides some limits to non-resident hunting tags to reduce pressure on public lands, improves hunter education, and doubles Block Management payments.

They say the agreements are part of ongoing conversations to find common ground and improve relationships between hunters, landowners, and outfitters.

“Managing Montana’s elk population is a complex challenge,” said Mac Minard, Executive Director, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, “Realistic solutions require diverse interests working together to identify areas of consensus and advocating for policies that will shape the future of elk management. We are honored to be working with the Coalition and leading conservation groups in the state on these policy agreements.”

Participants at Elk Camp also discussed the need to establish a permanent trust account that would dramatically expand the pace and scale of stewardship and restoration treatments across the State.

Although the idea has not yet been introduced as legislation, Senator Jeff Wellborn, R-Dillon, says the proposed ‘Montana Legacy Trust’ deserves a fair shot at a hearing because it’s an investment in rural Montana.

“At the end of the 2021 session, I asked for people to bring solutions forward that unite, rather than divide,” said Wellborn. “The elk coalition has spent the better part of a year bringing the affected interests together. I’ll help whoever it is that carries this legislation.”