Wildlife in North America belongs to all of us, not to the rich or the politically privileged. But powerful forces are now working to bury that idea and sell wildlife to the highest-bidder.
The original Pilgrims figured it out quick when they landed in America: The wildlife of the land should be for all, not just the privileged few. What slowly evolved in their wake came to be known as the North American Model of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. It's worked for over 100 years, it'll work for another 100 if we defend it.
Wildlife is held in trust for all Americans no matter what your station in life is. Wildlife belongs to no one, and it never should be unfairly distributed to the highest bidder or to the privileged few. That concept is known as the Public Trust Doctrine.
To the brink and back:
When the first pilgrims landed in America, they found a land teeming with elk, deer, turkey and a host of other game and non-game animals. In our countries 250 year expansion, we almost lost all of the wildlife we now hold dear. Through the conservation efforts of hunters and anglers, we brought our game animals back to abundance.
That restoration was made possible because the guy running the asphalt rake as well as the accountant could afford to go hunt. No high fences, no lease fees, and no rich lords looking over our shoulder. Americans are born adventurers. It's that love for what's over the next knob, ridge and coulee that drives us to chase Public Wildlife.
It's that love of wild country and wild places that lead us to restore elk and deer herds, and it's that guttural understanding that Big Game Needs Big Country, that keeps hunters and anglers in the front lines of the fight to protect what's left of our backcountry areas.
The public is the beneficiary of the trust in which we hold all wildlife. We need to protect it from those who try to civilize us.
What you can do: Stay vigilant. There are many people at work in our own legislature who are working overtime to eliminate the one thing getting in their way: Your voice, and your vote at the Fish Wildlife and Parks Commission.
One of the best ways to stay vigilant to these types of attacks is to join the Montana Wildlife Federation's Sportsmen's Advocate Network and be ready for the fight.
There are pirates in these waters. They want your tags. We see it in other states like Utah, Colorado and New Mexico: Your tags going to people who buy their way to the front of the line. That ain't right.
The fair allocation of wildlife resource is paramount to how Montana manages wildlife. Anyone, no matter what they drive, what their job is, or what their income bracket looks like, has the same chance at drawing a 380 Elk Tag, or Breaks Ram Tag. But that's not good enough for those who think wildlife owes them a salary.
Wildlife is valuable. Nobody demonstrates that better than the folks who are trying to take it from you. Well-connected political players are attacking the idea of a fair and equitable public wildlife resource, and replacing it with special privileges for the privileged.
The most egregious example is the misnamed, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, based in Utah. In western states like Arizona and Idaho this group is currently lobbying elected official to grant select landowners the power to distribute hunting tags, instead of the more equitable and democratic fish and game commissions.
Will we see this attempt to privatize wildlife in Montana as well? You betcha. It's only a question of when.
What you can do:
A shadowy group has started to infiltrate Montana, known as Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife/Big Game Forever. In Utah, these wildlife profiteers gain their revenue through auctioning off prized big game permits and being able to keep a large majority of the profits.
There is an attempt in Utah to hold these groups who receive these auction tags accountable for their actions and limit the amount of the proceeds they get to keep. Sign this petition and help restore the public in public wildlife.
Montana has yet to see blatant attacks from groups and individuals trying to privatize our wildlife and dismantle the North American Model of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. That’s a good thing, but we need to be on guard.
"Sportsmen" stab Theodore Roosevelt in the back
One of the goofier gaffes Mitt Romney has made on the 2012 Campaign Trail was when he recalled a recent Montana hunting trip – but forgot if he had pursued elk or moose... Read More
Group Founder Declares that North American Hunting Model is 'Socialism'
Seven weeks ago, Chad Love of Field Notes posted an article describing the resignation of Alaska Fish and Game’s Conservation Director, Corey Rossi, after Rossi was charged with 12 violations related to an illegal black bear hunt in 2008... Read More
Group seeking privatized wildlife spreading misinformation
Recently there has been an onslaught of misleading information brought forth by the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and their sister organization, Big Game Forever. The Montana chapter of this Utah-based organization seems to be taking marching orders from Utah. They are here in Montana, endorsing and supporting legislative candidates to carry their radical positions... Read More
How public wildlife became something for sale
Wildlife management in North America has been based on more than a century of inclusion between the hunting public and landowners. But that has been changing over the past 30 years in Montana... Read More