Montana Initiative Could Raise License Fees, Gut Outfitter Industry

A state ballot initiative in Montana would eliminate guaranteed out-of-state tags for outfitters in favor of a lottery.

From this story in the Missoulian:
_Depending on whose argument you accept, Initiative 161 will either help hunters access more private land or gut Montana's hunting outfitter industry.

__The debate dates back to at least 1987. That's when outfitters were guaranteed a certain number of nonresident big game and deer combination licenses for their clients. The idea, adopted by the Montana Legislature, was meant to give outfitters some measure of stability in a state where tourism ranks as the second-largest industry behind agriculture.

"...As written, I-161 would remove the 5,500 nonresident big game and deer licenses set aside for outfitters' clients and instead include them in a lottery system used to award licenses to nonresidents who don't hire an outfitter. Because nonresident license dollars are the funding source for the state's Block Management Program, which pays landowners to open their land to public hunting, the license fees would be increased to expand the program to more lands.

Under the initiative, 25 percent of the revenue from nonresident license sales would be earmarked to improve hunting access. Money from nonresident fees also pays for habitat improvement on publicly accessible lands. To raise the extra funds for Block Management, I-161 would raise the nonresident big game combination license from $628 to $897, and the nonresident deer combination license fee would climb from $328 to $527.

A total of 17,000 of the big game combination licenses would be sold along with 6,600 deer combination licenses. The fees would be automatically adjusted in the future for inflation. A fiscal analysis by the state shows that if all of the licenses were sold at the increased fee, an additional $700,000 a year would be raised for hunter access along with an additional $1.5 million for habitat improvement._

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