On November 12, Montana's Private Land/Public Wildlife (PL/PW) Advisory Council developed its final recommendations addressing Fish, Wildlife & Parks' Block Management (hunter access) Program and growth of the outfitting industry. These recommendations will be submitted to the Governor in the form of a final report in December.
In keeping with the Council's charge--that being to "review the progress of, and make recommendations concerning...HB 195 programs and related issues...,"--the Council's recommendations are:
1) Reauthorize the existence of the enhanced Block Management Program for an additional five years, by extending the enabling statute's sunset date from October 1, 2001, to March 1, 2006.
2) Provide for additional funding for the Block Management Program to allow for an increase of about one-third in the size of the program (at a cost of approximately $1 million-$1.5 million) through revenues generated from: * an increase in the cost of an Upland Game Bird License for both residents and nonresidents, with the additional revenue earmarked for Block Management.
* by replacing the current Conservation License with three new alternative "Access/Habitat" Licenses (Hunting-only/Fishing-only/Combination) and earmarking new hunting license revenue beyond what is currently generated by the sale of Conservation Licenses for the expansion of the Block Management Program. 3) Extend the moratorium on licensing of new outfitters for three more years.
4) Establish a limit of 10 (present limit of 20) nonresident hunters a landowner can sponsor when those hunters purchase landowner-sponsored Deer Combination Licenses. The limit would be effective July 1, 1999, and would be independent of the proposed moratorium placed on new outfitters.
5) Propose that the Board of Outfitters be restructured by requiring that its seven members be: * one, an outfitter who outfits primarily on public land
* one, an outfitter who outfits primarily on private land
* one, a fishing outfitter
* one, a member of the public at large
* two, sportspersons
* one, a landowner who does not allow outfitted hunting or charge a fee for hunting on his or her property. FWP's current representative on the Board would not be a member in the future, but would provide information related to enforcement/resource management issues.
6) Final Recommendation pending January 6, 1999 meeting - a PL/PW subcommittee was appointed to work with legal counsel to develop revisions to language contained in House Bill 196 to provide more precise statutory direction for developing rules that the Board of Outfitters must use to review and approve/deny net client hunter use (NCHU) expansion requests.
Two legislative proposals are expected to be introduced by the council during Montana's 1999 legislative session, one to make the changes in law necessary to implement the first of the four recommendations, the other to implement the recommendations pertaining to the Board of Outfitters.