Montana: Landowners increasingly shut access to popular spots

I see it as a way for our western “royalty” to try to coerce Montana FWP into supporting wildife and fish-harmful plans-

The land barons are trying to use hunters to pressure FWP into policies that are harmful to wildlife, but friendly to their private interests. The article says that for access, lots of these pint-sized earls and duke are trying to get sportsmen to sign petitions, etc. to support policies unrelated to access to their land.

Don’t fall for it. Fight back and join organizations that want to reign in their arrogant abuse of power. Landowners increasingly shut down popular spots. By Nick Gevock. Montana Standard.

Here is a link to the Montana Wildlife Federation. For a real kick in their pants join the Western Watersheds Project.






  1. Jay Avatar

    The simple answer: ask for permission, maybe even offer to volunteer for a day working for the landowner as repayment for access–most landowners appreciate this gesture and let you hunt without taking you up on your offer. If they give you access but with strings attached, say thanks for your time and go elsewhere. Hunters need to start developing some ethics that take precedence over their desire to kill “the big one”.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    That’s always good advice, but the point here is these landowners are using access denial to achieve political goals that are not in the interests of hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, or wildlife.

    Worse their political goals might not transparent. As Larry Zuckerman pointed out the other day, the closure by one or more of the Big Hole, Montana ranchers, supposedly because they are angry about wolves, more likely is that they are angry about having to provide water for fish, especially graying, in the Big Hole River.

  3. Jay Avatar

    Unfortunate that they use their land as leverage for political goals, but hopefully hunters stay above the BS and not let their desire for acess to some of these big ranches take precedence over their own political best interests.

  4. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    The managers of the block management program, knew this was going to become an issue when the program started, land owners didn’t join the program because they cared for hunters, they joined the program, because they figured it would get them political clout, which is unfortunate. As private land owners, they can do what they want as far as access, what is a shame, is they are penalizing those they said they support.

    With this play, the land owners are not only hurting hunters, they are hurting communities, the Big hole area has only smaller communities and the loss of one group of hunters impacts the businesses a lot.

    I don’t think most ranchers are anti wildlife, but I do think they are anti government, which is why this is happened, there are better ways to attain your political goals…

    And Jay, the hunters are not going to stay above the BS, because they don’t even think about the political goals of the land owners.

    I knew this was going to happen, it was discussed in closed meetings several times when I worked for FWP, I am just sorry to see it come true!

  5. JB Avatar

    The problem of access isn’t unique to Montana. It is probably the #1 issue facing deer managers in the Midwest.

  6. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I don’t see where anyone said it was unique to Montana

  7. JB Avatar


    You are correct: nobody said that the problem of hunter access was unique to Montana. However, the title certainly implied it:

    “Montana: Landowners increasingly shut access to popular spots”

    Should read:

    “US: Landowners increasingly shut access to popular spots”

    What gives with you this morning?

  8. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    JB Says:

    “What gives with you this morning?”

    I have no clue as to what you are talking about JB, but apparently I am speaking out of turn in your opinion…

  9. Tom Page Avatar
    Tom Page

    If we had more quality hunting on public land, these landowners wouldn’t have nearly as much leverage. This doesn’t really apply in the states with little public ground, but in the west, it’s absolutely true. Unfortunately, F&G departments around the west manage very few areas for quality hunting – they’d much prefer to sell as many tags as they can. Poor state and federal land management policies (travel, noxious weeds, grazing, etc.) make this problem worse.

    Of course private land is better most of the time – those lands are richer to begin with, and private landowners can manage for good habitat and conservative kill.

  10. outsider Avatar

    so I’m a little confused here. on one hand lots of individuals on this site want all livestock off public lands, because they belong to the public and in thier opionon the public doesn’t support livestock grazing. They should go back to their own Pirivate property where they can do what they want.

    But now I’m seeing people complainig about private landowners doing what they want with their PRIVATE property and alot of the same people are rasing hell.

    So please tell me which way to you want to it be, or do you really want control over everything that you deam to be important at that current point in time.

    Where do you draw the line on what is private property, is it large tracks of land ie; over 5000 ac, or 40 ac plots ripping up the free spaces all over the west. Why is okay for one landowner to build a house and landscape their property as they see fit, and not for another to say if you want to hunt on my property heres what I want to from u?

  11. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Outsider forcing people to sign petitions is nothing more than blackmail, which many landowners have been trying to do in exchange for their block management participation.

    Now when the state wildlife agency didn’t do what they wanted, they just pull out of the program, which of course as we are talking about private land, is their right, but in their quest to assert their political goals, they have done nothing but hurt those who have supported them…The Hunter and the communities that surround them.

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    These landowners are being paid to provide access, so the situation is not as you described it.

    Rancher Hirschy was giving up the payment and denying access. This is his right. A lot of folks doubt has stated rationale that he is angry about wolf management is his real reason, but rather one that sounds better to hunters. At any rate, he used the program for political purposes. That is his right too, but it is our right to complain about it.

    My suggestion is that in some cases where public land is blocked by private land, then access should be condemned. That requires payment, of course, but withdrawal is not an option.

    Note that occasionally the blockage of public land by private property does benefit the environment, especially where the public’s use of public lands is abusive due to lack of enforcement funds, etc.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan