Wildlife Advocates React to MT Elk Management Plan
Monday, August 21, 2023
After months of public input and work by wildlife officials, Montana is set to release a new Elk Management Plan this fall.
Montana's last Elk Management Plan was drafted 18 years ago.
Advocates say the new strategy reflects changes the state has seen in that time - focusing on thinning Montana's elk population, which has been booming along with the human population.
Jeff Lukas - acting conservation director for the Montana Wildlife Federation - said while the plan is new, the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks' strategy relies on an age-old tradition to manage elk numbers - by hunting.
"We're seeing FWP be more responsive to the public's desires, as far as opportunity to harvest, helping relieve pressure off of public land," said Lukas, "so that those elk come off of private land back onto public, where folks will get more opportunity."
Private landowners are doing their part to help thin the herd, too, and have been involved in crafting the plan that encourages hunting - even on their property.
The final Elk Management Plan is due out this fall.
In what amounts to a public-private partnership, Craig Jourdonndais - the big game researcher and hunt coordinator for MPG Ranch in northwest Montana - said the ranch is taking a strategic approach to help thin the herd.
Jourdonnais said he welcomes the opportunity for hunters to use two licenses during a single hunt.
"When we have hunters that we're trying to take a couple at a time," said Jourdonndais, "if instead they can each harvest an elk, if they can each harvest two elk - two antlerless elk - during the same hunt, that's a huge bonus for us."
And for the Montana elk population.
While the state's final Elk Management Plan is due out later this year, it won't go untouched for another 18 years like the current one.
Game officials have agreed to make small changes, as needed, as often as every five years.
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