Outfitters not on board

Randy Newberg has been a vocal advocate for Montana hunters for 15 years. He's testified before the Montana Legislature on bills concerning public land use and conservation, and hosts a do-it-yourself hunting show called "On Your Own Adventures," which, unlike most outdoor programs, doesn't employ the services of outfitters or guides.

On Jan. 22, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation announced its nomination of Newberg to serve on its 24-member board, and while Newberg seemed a perfect choice to represent the interests of the conservation and hunting advocacy group, not everyone agreed. On Feb. 13, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association Executive Director Mac Minard sent an email to MOGA members stating, "Randy is affiliated with, and often represents one or more organizations that some perceive to be anti-outfitting/landowner often presenting the western Outfitting Industry in a negative light." Minard went on to urge MOGA members to contact RMEF's board to voice their concerns.

That same day, RMEF began receiving emails from MOGA members. "I can truthfully say that if [Newberg] was appointed to your board, my hunt donations, or any other donations would be stopped, strictly for the fact of what he stands for," read one, according to Newberg.

While Newberg says he has never fielded complaints from MOGA in the past, he suspects some of the vitriol stems from his Jan. 29 testimony in opposition to Senate Bill 151, which seeks to lessen restrictions on permitted elk hunting land. The bill was met with harsh criticism from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Montana Wildlife Federation and Headwaters Sportsman Association, on whose behalf Newberg testified. His testimony was brief, but included a pointed undercurrent suggesting the bill benefitted only a few and was not in the best interest of the general public. Minard, who did not return phone calls for this article, and two other MOGA representatives testified in favor of the bill.

Despite the controversy, RMEF maintained its commitment to Newberg in a recent post on its website."The RMEF Board has notified Mr. Newberg that we welcome him to the Board beginning March 3," it read.

The post, which was signed by RMEF President M. David Allen, concludes, "RMEF strongly believes that hunter vs. hunter confrontation is non-productive for the future of hunting and wildlife conservation."

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