A recent rant submitted by Gary Marbut of Montana Shooting Sports Association is so void of fact that it requires rebuttal (see Letters, “Let FWP starve!” Jan. 26).
His claim of FWP’s “shocking tolerance and support for large predators” stems from a federal reintroduction of gray wolves and federal courts treating wildlife management as abstract legal theory rather than science. Fact is, there's nothing FWP could do to change that.
Does he suggest FWP should have disregarded federal laws and court? Common sense tells us FWP was handcuffed by the federal wolf reintroduction. FWP could have ignored common sense—much like Marbut and MSSA did during the 62nd Legislature, when they promoted over 30 unfavorable bills, including one to gut the state wolf management plan, which would have resulted in continued federal wolf protection.
His attack on the integrity of FWP personnel should not have been allowed by an editorial board. It is without any supporting evidence. Strong personal attacks need to be supported by fact, not a personal tirade, as when he says FWP has been “fudging game counts and census numbers, and...blaming any game population declines that could not be covered up on climate change, sunspots, lazy hunters or aliens—anything but the truth.”
These claims, if not so incendiary, would not be worthy of a reply. This logic, or illogic, ignores loss of habitat, a politically-influenced elk management plan and legislative meddling as primary causes for current elk numbers. Unfounded claims such as Marbut's have no place in the discussion.
Fact is, Marbut’s friends in the legislature continue meddling in the affairs of FWP, to the detriment of resident hunters, making science-based game management political fodder. Sen. Debbie Barrett and her colleagues have passed bills requiring FWP to keep elk and deer populations under already low objectives. Those bills and the low objectives in the Montana elk management plan have done much to reduce elk populations in the Madison, Bitterroot and Gallatin. That’s a fact.
Now for the most humorous of his quotes: “Nobody at FWP noticed or cared several years ago when the editor of the NRA’s nationwide American Hunter magazine published a feature article about his fruitless elk hunting trip to southwest Montana, a trip where the only tracks he saw were wolf tracks.”
Since when is FWP responsible for a magazine editor’s hunting skill, or in this case, lack thereof? Given the abundance of elk “several years ago,” it is hard to believe an experienced hunter could not even find a track. Unfortunately, this kind of storytelling serves as truth among some who serve in Helena.
Montana finally has control of our wolves. We now have a wolf season to go with our mountain lion and black bear seasons, year-round coyote hunting and a myriad of other ways for hunters to deal with the predators Marbut implies are causing the “crashing herds.”
In the last two months, friends and I have hunted wolves whenever possible. Predators have fallen to our bullets, including one wolf. Hunters managing predators, as planned. With wolf delisting, we have every tool reasonably expected to manage predators. How many vocal critics are actually out there using these management tools versus sitting behind their computers whining that FWP is not killing these predators for them?
Speaking of predators, the kind that prey on resident sportsmen seem abundant during legislative sessions. Bills promoted by MSSA and Marbut have often been attacks on FWP, resident hunters and anglers and common sense. Bills like H.B. 321, which would have cost Montana sportsmen over $24 million in federal matching dollars. Or H.B. 369, which would have crippled our game wardens and let poachers have free reign.
Marbut’s tirade seems most driven by fear of a slight fee increase. Whether or not FWP will go to the next legislature for such, who knows? What we do know is that history shows MSSA will likely be on the wrong side of the issue when measured against facts, common sense and what is best for resident hunters.
Montana Sportsmen Alliance