Montana FWP proposes updates to block management program rules

Block Management
Posted at 7:50 PM, Nov 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-01 12:13:15-05

HELENA — Leaders with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks say it’s been 25 years since there have been major updates to the administrative rules that govern the state’s block management program – and that now is a good time to go through and see what’s outdated and what can be improved.

“The block management program is our biggest access program,” said Greg Lemon, administrator of FWP’s Communication and Education Division. “In general, we are happy, but that doesn't mean we can't take the opportunity to make sure that everything is running as efficiently as it can be.”

FWP has proposed a number of changes to the administrative rules, and they’re currently accepting public comment on the proposals.

Through block management, property owners can get payments through the state for opening their land to hunters. FWP says 1,400 landowners across the state are currently participating.

Lemon said this rule revision is part of the Gianforte administration’s “Red Tape Relief” initiative. It includes a lot of language that will be removed from the rules and moved into either department policies or specific contracts with landowners.

“In the long run, that's going to provide some clarity for landowners that we partner with and also give us some flexibility to be able to adjust some of the policy needs if we need to in the future,” said Lemon.

Lemon said one area FWP could use that flexibility is in setting the start and end of the open season for block management areas. For example, he said there’s a growing interest in spring turkey hunting on those properties.

“Over the course of the last couple of decades, the opportunities for turkey hunting in Montana have expanded quite a bit,” he said. “Our block management program has had to adjust, to where in the past, that wasn't really an opportunity, that wasn't part of our season structure for block management contracts – now it is.”

The proposed changes also lay out the process for how a landowner can temporarily close a block management area for things like agricultural activities or safety concerns.

“Last year we had quite a few block management areas where landowners didn't want to open up when the hunting season started, because of fire danger in particular,” Lemon said. So, yeah, we want to be a really good partner with landowners. The purpose of the program is to really help landowners and help hunters – help landowners manage hunting access and provide good places for hunters to be able to hunt.”

FWP is holding a public hearing on the rule changes, which is intended only to take public comment. It will be held over Zoom, Friday at 1 p.m. You can also submit written comment on the proposals through 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 4. You can find information on how to provide comment and a copy of the full proposed changes on FWP’s website.