February 14, 2013
Deer Damage, New Bills Spark Debate in Montana
By Chad Love
A pair of bills just introduced in the Montana state house that would give more local control over big-game regulations are raising red flags with that state's outdoorsmen.
From this story in the Billings Gazette:
Two bills that would give counties more control over big-game populations are being opposed by sporting groups and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, submitted House Bills 375 and 376 to allow more local control over impacts from deer, elk and antelope that forage on agricultural land. HB375 would make FWP reimburse landowners for crop damage; HD376 would allow counties to present plans to FWP to lethally remove big game in counties, similar to Helena’s ongoing effort to trap and kill deer within the city limits. Ballance said she’s not trying to take away FWP’s authority to manage big game. However, she said her Ravalli County constituents are frustrated. “My bills are intended to give farmers and ranchers some relief from the deer damage they’re experiencing,” Ballance said. “… I’m here to tell you this is a serious problem. It’s been talked about for 30 years and it’s not gone away. The remedies are not working.”
According to the story, proponents of the bill argue that hay and crop producers have no recourse for compensation from deer and elk eating their crops like livestock producers do for predation, while opponents counter that landowners already have many options, from state-aided fencing programs to noisemakers to late-season hunts to remove big game,and that using sportsmens' dollars to pay farmers for crop damage is a bad idea.
Thoughts? Would this set a dangerous precedent in regard to wildlife management?