Our point of view

Jeff HagenerHappy 35th!

I?n this fast-changing world, it’s good to know some things stay the same. One of those is Montana Outdoors, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

What was then called the Montana Department of Fish and Game launched this magazine back in 1970. Since then, Montana Outdoors has covered all the state’s major conservation issues, from coal mining and trout stocking to bison hunting and endangered species recovery.

The magazine’s origins actually date back to 1928, when the Department of Fish and Game began publishing Montana Wild Life. As is still true today, Montana’s fish and wildlife resources back then were too vast for the agency to manage alone. Only with cooperation from ranchers, hunters, and anglers could it conserve habitat, reduce depredation, enforce regulations, and otherwise manage fish and wildlife. For that to happen, however, citizens needed good information about fish and wildlife management.

In the first issue of Montana Wild Life, Thomas Marlowe, chair of the Fish and Game Commission, wrote, “We have found that where public dissatisfaction exists regarding activities of this department, much, if not all of it is based upon misinformation rather than the actual facts.”

Montana Wild Life was discontinued in 1934. But within a few years, the department began publishing the Montana Wildlife Bulletin. That was replaced in the 1950s and ’60s with a quarterly magazine called Montana Wildlife. The title Montana Outdoors was given to a monthly newsletter begun in 1966. Four years later, the department merged the newsletter and the quarterly magazine to create the publication you hold in your hands.

First issue
The first issue: 1970

The tone of Montana Outdoors has changed over time, reflecting changes in Montana and this agency. In its first several years, the magazine ran fiery editorials denouncing the proposed Allenspur Dam, subdivision sprawl, and strip mining. In the 1980s and ’90s, Montana Outdoors advocated for conservation by focusing more on the state’s natural beauty and the personal satisfaction that comes from hunting, fishing, and camping in the outdoors. In recent years, as controversies over river recreation, endangered species, elk management, and other topics have inflamed public passion, Montana Outdoors has devoted considerable space to objective reporting on these and other topics. Like the piece on Yellowstone diversion dams in this issue (“Little Dams, Big Barriers,” page 12), these articles present several sides to issues, allowing readers to make up their own minds about what needs to be done to solve problems affecting the state’s environment, recreation, communities, and economies.

Over the years, Montana Outdoors has adjusted its approach to promoting conservation. It has altered its appearance, too, becoming livelier and more colorful. But one thing that has not changed is the magazine’s primary purpose, which Marlowe identified back in 1928: “We need to disseminate authoritative information regarding activities of the department to present the facts, secure in the knowledge that authentic statistics have an educational value appreciated by [those] who love the out-of-doors.”
This department continues to believe that the more people know about what we do, the more likely they will work with us to conserve Montana’s increasingly valuable fisheries, wildlife populations, and state parks. I hope Montana Outdoors continues to help with that effort for at least another 35 years.Bear bullet


M. Jeff Hagener is Director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks