MSGA Statement on Ballot Initiative I-161

Montana’s family ranchers and farmers take pride in providing good stewardship of their working agricultural lands, which comprise 61 million acres and 65% of the state’s land. Their land stewardship practices provide excellent wildlife habitat and help maintain healthy wildlife populations. Ranchers and farmers are an integral part of managing the state’s wildlife and provide many hunting opportunities on their private land through public hunting, private leasing and participation in programs like Block Management.

Ballot initiative I-161 proposes to eliminate all outfitter-sponsored hunting licenses currently available in Montana and reallocate them to non-resident hunters through the general draw system. I-161 changes the revenue stream for Block Management and puts future funding in question.

Although this initiative was put forth under the guise of improving public access to private land, MSGA believes I-161 will erode landowner/hunter relations and will create an ineffective system for managing wildlife. For this reason, MSGA opposes I-161. MSGA has been a strong supporter of the Block Management program, which has opened up 8.5 million acres of private land to sportsmen and is considered a model for many other states. Block Management was developed through the Private Lands/Public Wildlife Council with active participation by ranchers. Rather than proceeding with initiatives like I-161, MSGA would advocate for landowners and sportsmen working together to build on programs like Block Management and trying to find new and creative ways to address changing needs of all parties involved.

“Successful wildlife management and hunter access programs are developed through hard work, a willingness to include all viewpoints,” said Tom Hougen, MSGA President, and former chair of the PL/PW Council. “Let’s make more of an effort to build relationships and stick with programs that work rather than potentially unraveling a proven program that works for both landowners and sportsmen.”


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