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  Comments (0) Total Friday Apr. 18, 2014
Changes Needed in Block Management Program
Guest Column
Legislators hear monthly about Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks matters from constituents. Last month’s audit of the Block Management program highlighted some needed changes. This program allows public hunting access on private land through a mutual agreement with FWP. The landowners are called cooperators in the agreement while the properties are known as BMAs.

These BMA lands are accessed by the hunter completing a sign-in card or getting a permission slip from FWP. At the end of the season the payments to the landowners are based on the hunter days gathered through the counts. Cooperators can receive up to $11 per hunter day with no more than $12,000 a year for the BMA. Some landowners accept a flat fee while others have chosen no compensation.

Audit work discovered that FWP needed to explore different methods to pay owners because of inconsistencies in the system. Last year’s total payout was $4.95 million, so we’re talking about some serious hunter dollars here. The audit work also chastised the department for using funds to compensate landowners when FWP already had a conservation easement on the property. Small adjustments like this will mean more dollars used in the proper channels to gain access for more hunting opportunity.

It was pointed out during the audit that the money paid to landowners was not for the actual hunter access to the land but rather for mitigation to the BMA such as soil and erosion control. We all know the cooperator will use the funds to enhance the land but know it is just semantics to say that it isn’t pay to allow hunter access to the BMA. Without the access to hunters there would have been no need for the 1985 program to begin.

One of the problems that we all recognize is the accrual of Montana land into the hands of the megarich out-of-stater who sometimes doesn’t know nor care about our hunting way of life or the impact of public game harbored on their land. The sister problem to this is our well-documented stand on private property rights in this state. Therein lies the conundrum.

The audit didn’t solve this problem but did address some changes that will make the Block Management program stronger for future hunters. We were skunked (again) this year in our hunt for antlers but know many of you had a successful season.

Now if you’d call me with the inside secrets to “where” and “when” we will be prepared for next hunting season. I will also listen to solutions to Montana’s conundrum with large parcels in private hands with no access to Montanans. In the meantime I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and look forward to Christmas.

Dee Brown is a Republican state senator from Hungry Horse
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