Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is beginning the biennial hunting regulations review process, and this year the department is looking to take a fresh approach.
In the past, the biennial hunting regulation process typically had few changes to the existing regulations. This year, FWP will tackle more significant changes such as combining hunting districts and simplifying license structures, while still keeping focused on statewide wildlife population management goals.
“Hunters have told us for years that our regulations are too complicated,” said FWP Director Hank Worsech. “Past efforts to simplify the regulations have mostly resulted in small changes every two years. It’s time to take a more holistic look at the regulations to make them more understandable and effective.”
Hunters and the public will have multiple opportunities to comment during this year’s season setting process. In late September, FWP will put potential changes to hunting regulations for the 2022 and 2023 seasons out for 30 days of public comment. A second 30-day public comment opportunity will come following the Dec. 14 Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting to ensure hunter voices are heard.
“We’ll put science-based proposals out for people to chew on early in the process, to promote transparency and encourage public engagement,” Worsech said.
The biggest changes hunters can look for will be a reduction in the number of license/permit types (LPTs) and the number of hunting districts.
In several instances around the state, adjacent hunting districts have similar regulations. In those cases, FWP may propose combining hunting districts and eliminating duplicative regulations.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will see both the department proposals and public comments before its meeting Dec. 14. At that meeting, the commission will approve a refined, draft set of hunting regulations for further public comment. Then it will adopt the final 2022 and 2023 hunting regulations in February.
A simplified approach to hunting regulations is something FWP staff have worked on for the past four years. The first steps were to clarify and simplify some of the legal language in the regulations and make them consistent in all FWP regulation booklets. That step was completed almost three years ago.
The next step is to dig a bit deeper in order to provide clarity and reduce complexity.
“Ultimately, the aim is to have regulations that are consistent with state law and management objectives, clarify hunter opportunity, and encourage participation,” Worsech said. “It’s time for a better approach, and we’re eager to hear what hunters think. We’ll focus directly on the wildlife resource and look to the public and commission to help us get this right.”
These proposed changes will be posted at fwp.mt.gov when they first become available for public comment in September.