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Montana groups recognized for work increasing public access and hunting opportunities

Gianforte Lake Helena
Posted at 5:57 PM, Oct 23, 2023

HELENA — Monday in the Helena Valley, Gov. Greg Gianforte touted partnerships that he says delivered good results this year for Montana sportsmen, outfitters and landowners.

During an event at Lake Helena Wildlife Management Area, Gianforte presented awards to recognize groups like the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, the Montana Citizens’ Elk Management Coalition and the Private Land/Public Wildlife Advisory Committee, for their work on a package of bills dealing with public access and activities like hunting.

“I've always said, and I believe it truly, that as Montanans, we have much more in common than separates us,” Gianforte told MTN. “And that's what this group did: They set aside the differences and focused on the things they agree on.”

Leaders said these organizations began talking well before the 2023 legislative session, along with groups like the Montana Wildlife Federation.

“Many folks with differing needs said yes to setting aside some of the divisiveness of the past that you can all think about and choosing to cooperate to flesh out solutions to make improvements,” said Ed Beall, who chairs the Private Land/Public Wildlife Advisory Committee.

Gianforte particularly highlighted two of the bills that passed this session: Senate Bill 58, sponsored by Sen. Steve Hinebauch, R-Wibaux, which doubled the maximum payment landowners can receive for opening their land to hunters through the state Block Management Program; and House Bill 438, sponsored by Rep. Denley Loge, R-St. Regis, which removed application fees when a landowner seeks to sign an agreement to let people cross their property to get to hard-to-reach public lands.

“Bringing people together and getting them to talk about things and work things out, we've come out with some very good solutions – and it's going to get a lot better,” Loge said Monday.

Leaders said they hope these successes will only be the beginning.

“Everyone won when we come together, and I think this is an example of the approach we should be taking in other areas where we might have disagreement,” Gianforte said.

Also during Monday’s event, Gianforte continued to talk about putting an emphasis on active forest management. He cited an agreement with the Legislature that will put another $15 million per year in state funds toward treating more acres.