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Montana’s Controversial Pheasant Stocking Program Strikes Ahead

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks is transferring ahead with a controversial program to inventory pen-raised pheasants on state-owned lands in an effort to recruit extra hunters. FWP is now in search of closing approval from the Fish and Wildlife Fee to fund this system by way of 2026, and the division hopes to get birds on the bottom earlier than the youth looking season begins in September.

Though this system has acquired vital pushback from hunters and sportsmen’s teams within the state, stocking might start as early as subsequent month, in keeping with the Lewistown Information-Argus.

Out of doors Life reported on the inception of the state’s pheasant-planting program final June. Since then, FWP has doubled down on its place that the initiative will assist with hunter recruitment and retention efforts by giving youth hunters extra birds to shoot. The division has additionally contended that the discharge of farm-raised birds can serve to spice up wild fowl populations within the state.

FWP wrapped up its environmental evaluation final month, and after taking additional public remark, it really useful that the stocking program transfer ahead.

Learn Subsequent: Montana Proposes Pen-Raised Pheasants as a Hunter Recruitment Device

Nevertheless, the Instances-Argus reported earlier this week that of the 218 feedback that FWP acquired between April 20 and Could 19, 4 out of 5 opposed the stocking program. This reinforces one of many fears that some conservation teams have already voiced relating to the state’s decision-making course of.

“Montana BHA fears that the choice making for this proposal has already occurred, and that FWP is conducting a farcical effort to interact hunters earlier than finally ignoring our feedback,” Vice Chair of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Thomas Baumeister wrote in a letter to the division in February.

Baumeister additionally pointed to the opposite main issues that Montana sportsmen have with the pheasant stocking program. For starters, opponents of the stocking program contend that whereas giving youth hunters the chance to shoot farm-raised birds would possibly enhance their degree of success, it wouldn’t present them with an genuine looking expertise.

“Presenting a fabricated put-and-take alternative teaches to kill, reasonably than to hunt,” Baumeister defined within the letter.

Opponents have additionally refuted FWP’s argument that this system might assist jump-start wild fowl numbers within the state. Pointing to numerous research that present the low survival and manufacturing charges of pen-raised birds within the wild, they contend that stocking farm-raised pheasants isn’t a viable technique for reinforcing wild populations.

Due to these elements, they are saying the $1 million that the state plans to spend on elevating and releasing pen-raised roosters quantities to a gross misuse of public funding. As Andrew McKean identified final yr, the division’s objective is to launch as much as 50,000 captive pheasants yearly, which comes out to $20 per fowl.

Opponents have argued repeatedly that the $1 million could be higher spent on habitat enchancment tasks that profit wild birds, or on any variety of recruitment and retention methods that prioritize fair-chase looking.

“At finest, this stocking proposal will see poor retention for brand spanking new hunters whereas proving to be a waste of {dollars} higher spent on significant change and habitat enhancements,” Baumeister mentioned.

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