With the Thanksgiving holiday and the Nov. 26 close of big game hunting season drawing near, FWP Director Pat Graham thanked Montana's private landowners for their role in helping the state preserve wildlife habitat, conserve in-stream water flow for fisheries and provide hunting access. "On behalf of the many sportsmen and women who hunt and fish throughout Montana, we would like to say, 'thank you,' to Montana's private landowners," Graham said.
"Throughout the past 100 years, landowners, sportsmen and women, and FWP have worked to restore fish and wildlife to the land. None of us could have done alone what we have accomplished together," Graham said. "Together we've made Montana one of the most desirable hunting and recreation areas in the U.S."
This hunting season, more than 1,000 landowners participated in FWP's Block Management Program, which afforded free public hunting access to more than 8 million acres of land and accounted for about 250,000 hunting days in Montana. Over the past decade, FWP has also entered into agreements with landowners who have placed over 270,000 acres of private land under conservation easements to protect critical wildlife habitats. An additional 830 agreements with private landowners protect and provide access to 439,000 acres of upland game bird habitat. Many landowners not enrolled in any formal FWP program also share their private lands with members of the public for recreational use.
In addition, watershed groups like the Big Hole Watershed Committee and the Jefferson River Watershed Council, private farmers, ranchers and water users have pulled together over the past several years to measurably increase the flow in some Montana rivers and streams during extremely dry periods. Their sacrifice benefited native cutthroat trout, Arctic grayling, and other fisheries in some of Montana's major rivers and streams, Graham said.
"As FWP moves into our second century of conservation, these partnerships and our ability to work together will be even more important in preserving the land, wildlife and rich traditions that make Montana an incomparable place to live," Graham said.