It’s a new year, but the farmers and ranchers of northern Hill County still feel ignored by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and they have grown in solidarity to make their views known.
Last week, 30 landowners, with 13 additions to the 17 who protested last month, joined in closing off what they estimate to be nearly 100,000 acres of Hill County that was open to hunters.
Many of these landowners came out to the FWP Commission conference call, where dozens of local farmers and ranchers voiced their objection to Montana spending more than $7 million on 4,500 acres. The cost was split by FWP, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and the Montana University System.
Scott Hemmer, the FWP biologist in Havre who wrote the Environmental Assessment on the Milk River Ranch purchase proposal, said not allowing hunters on the closed land would surely affect hunting in that area. And while nothing can really be done about their problems with past decisions, Hemmer hopes to reconcile, eventually.
“It definitely will decrease hunting opportunity, ” Hemmer said. “The Milk River Ranch is pretty much done. We don’t have control over that. But we’ll definitely reach out to surrounding landowners, and let them know we are listening to their concerns.
“Hopefully, over time we can mend those fences and repair that relationship with local landowners. ”