If he is elected governor, Rick Hill says Montanans can expect some fundamental and impactful changes to the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks department, especially when it comes to managing predators and bison.
Promoting a plan called “Protecting Montana’s Outdoor Sporting Heritage,” Hill held a roundtable discussion Aug. 22 at the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce to listen to concerns from outdoors groups and Flathead legislators.
Hill says the “relationship between landowners, sportsmen and Fish, Wildlife and Parks is broken” and the “trust is gone.”
“It doesn’t matter what corner the state we go to, we hear complaints and concerns about Fish, Wildlife and Parks,” Hill said at the roundtable discussion.
Hill’s listening session was the first of a series across the state to address outdoors issues. The Republican, a former U.S. congressman, is running against Democrat Steve Bullock, the state attorney general, to replace term-limited Democrat Brian Schweitzer as governor.
The race is considered one of the most competitive gubernatorial races in the nation, with Hill seeking to give the seat back to Republicans after an eight-year run for Schweitzer.
Hill says wildlife management in Montana would benefit from a change in leadership and policies, which includes changing the makeup of the FWP commission. One of his highest priorities is developing a comprehensive large carnivore management plan for wolves, bears and mountain lions.
If elected, Hill said his administration would seek to authorize multiple wolf tags per hunter with longer hunting seasons, while reducing the cost of tags for nonresidents and allowing baiting and electronic calling. He would also promote trapping and authorize trappers to take multiple animals.
The Republican is critical of the state’s plan to establish wild bison herds in Montana, arguing that it has “created major distrust of (FWP) by ranching landowners whose livelihoods are threatened by brucellosis-carrying bison.”
He is similarly critical of the National Park Service’s bison management in Yellowstone National Park. He says the bison population exceeds the park’s “sustainable carrying capacity and forces bison onto adjacent private and public lands.”
“It’s obvious there are way too many bison in the park,” Hill said.
Other concerns raised at the listening session were a lack of motorized opportunities on federal land and the effectiveness of the state’s block management program.
To help address some of these issues, Hill said the state should more actively facilitate a coordinated management effort that keeps federal agencies in check while giving greater voice to local governments. Kalispell Sen. Bruce Tutvedt agreed.
“It’s a team thing,” Tutvedt said, “and the team gets a lot stronger (with coordination).”
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