Below is a news release from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is implementing a new process for elk hunting access (EHA) agreements to provide more transparency with the public and landowners and allow for a clearer process for Fish and Wildlife Commission review.
EHA agreements were codified in Montana statute in 2001. The agreements were known as “454 agreements” reflecting the bill number of the original legislation. The statute was amended several times in the past 20 years, including during the 2021 session.
In general, EHA agreements allow landowners to receive an elk permit or license in exchange for allowing three public hunters on their property. One of the hunters is selected by the landowner from the list of successful permit or Elk B License applicants for the hunting district where the property is located. The other two hunters are selected by FWP from the same lists depending on the opportunities outlined in the agreement.
At least three public hunters are required for each landowner permit issued, but other access opportunities can be included in the agreement.
This year landowners can apply for EHA agreements from April 15 through June 1. The details on how to apply are located online at fwp.mt.gov/hunt/landownerprograms/public-elk-access-agreements.
“After several years of low interest from landowners, the changes the 2021 legislature made resulted in more demand for these agreements last year,” FWP Director Hank Worsech said. “We saw the need for a clearer and more transparent process for how these agreements are made and what they involve. The changes we’ve made will ensure that is the case going forward.”
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will approve 2022 EHA agreements at their June 23 meeting. The applications proposed for approval will be posted online two weeks prior to the meeting and the commission will take public comments on the applications at its meeting.
This year FWP is proposing to cap additional landowner permits for these agreements at 10% of the commission-approved permit or license quota for the hunting district where the agreement is valid. For example, if a hunting district has 100 permits, 10 new permits would be available for these agreements. A permit or license allocated to a landowner via EHA agreement is valid only on the landowner’s property. The permits cannot be sold, transferred or bartered for.
“Capping the number of new permits available for these agreements makes sense given that we expect more landowners to participate than last year, but we’re not sure what the interest will be,” Worsech said.
If the requests for permits or licenses are more than 10% of the commission-approved quotas, FWP plans to push all commission-approved applications to a random draw.
The EHA agreement will specify what areas of the ranch property will be open to no-cost public elk hunting, the number of public elk hunting days allowed on the property and other factors FWP and the landowner consider necessary. The agreement may include a process or methodology the public hunters identified in the agreement can use to reserve an access opportunity. The landowner reserves the right to deny access with cause to any public hunter chosen by FWP.
For more information, go online to fwp.mt.gov/hunt/landownerprograms/public-elk-access-agreements. Landowner applications will be available on this web address April 15. Applications must be complete to be considered. For questions, call your local FWP office or contact the FWP Parks and Outdoor Recreation Division, 406-444-3750, [email protected].
(Photo credit: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks)