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Introduction to Research Reports

Montanans have an enduring relationship with fish and wildlife. This relationship is lovingly preserved in countless albums of photos and clippings, chronicling the passage of hunting, fishing, and outdoors traditions from generation to generation.

But the social and economic context around that relationship is changing. Now, the photos are digital, and they're often e-mailed to friends and family far away.

Technology has made our society more mobile, which is allowing more people to move to Montana and bring their work with them. The work they bring and the jobs they generate tend to be in the newer sectors of the economy: services, professions, technology. These sectors are surpassing the traditional Montana economy: timber, mining, agriculture.

These newcomers are moving here because they want to be near beautiful natural landscapes, and they want to enjoy our abundant fish and wildlife populations. As a result, the natural landscape has taken on a new economic value: attracting the people who are creating the fastest growing sectors of the economy. This economic growth depends not on extracting natural resources but on protecting them in place.

While these newcomers are bringing economic growth, their attitudes toward fish and wildlife often differ from those of the third- and fourth-generation Montanans who are now their neighbors. Increasingly, the people who share the landscape have different views toward hunting and endangered species issues. Hikers, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers—recreational interests are more often in conflict than in times past. These differences in attitude and use of the landscape pose special challenges to agency managers responsible for fish and wildlife populations and habitat.

The changes underway in Montana can be explored from many angles, and understanding all of the angles is important to meeting the challenges of fish and wildlife management. We look outside and see new subdivisions—how widespread is such development and home-building? What impact will these homes have on the elk populations and the trout streams? A software developer uses his newly acquired wealth to buy property where the neighbors have hunted for generations—will they clash? When decades-old traditions break down, will new regulations be required?

This portion of the Montana Challenge Web site offers the opportunity to understand all of these angles: demographic, economic, political, social, and legal. Our research reports explore questions such as:

  • Who lives in Montana?
  • Who are the newcomers?
  • How do Montanans make their living?
  • How do residents and visitors experience our fish and wildlife?
  • How much money do people spend on outdoor recreation?
  • How do our laws reflect our values toward natural resources?
  • What can our newspapers tell us about changes in these important issues over time?

If you care about Montana's fish and wildlife riches—their role in our society, our economy, and our personal lives—we urge you to read these reports and communicate your views on the issues to decision-makers at all levels.