As a former Montana resident, I try to keep an eye on the goings-on in that state. Given Montana’s past record, I cringed at the implications of what could result if a Republican governor and a Republican legislature were both elected to serve during the same time frame.
Why? Simply because Montana’s Republicans have long ago demonstrated that the interests of the working class outdoorsman, regarding outdoor recreational opportunities and public lands access, are not the same as those of her well-funded, Republican legislators. Witness this last debacle, wildlife- and hunting-wise, and understand that if Montana’s outfitters can pull off this chicanery, then Wyoming’s outfitters will soon try the same stunt. It’s not something the working class residents of Wyoming can afford to let happen.
First, some background. Sandi and I moved down here to Cody in 1975. As an interested sportsman while living in Montana, I worked with local sportsman groups trying to correct the imbalance of allocation of nonresident and resident big-game hunting licenses even at that time, but it was a downhill fight. What with all the rich dudes from somewhere else U.S.A. moving into the state and becoming residents, in addition to those well-heeled outsiders and the resident commercial influence inside the Montana Fish and Game offices, their big money out-talked the concerns of blue collar class residents.
Eventually, however, sanity prevailed and by public fiat, the regulations guaranteeing non-resident big game hunting licenses for outfitters were repealed by law. That was around 2011 or so. Yep, 35 years of fighting to get a break and somewhat equal treatment with rich folks who wanted to turn Montana into Texas. The charge for retaining the status quo was mostly led by the outfitters who claimed they had to have a guaranteed income in order to make their businesses viable from year to year .
These charlatans maintained they absolutely needed those advance bookings so they could adjust their business plans for the next season. Funny, the folks operating stores downtown don’t have a guaranteed income, and they don’t have the opportunities to utilize a publicly owned and funded resource as the inventory for the basis of their businesses. Yes, the outfitters have overhead costs, but I submit to you that product inventory maintenance costs isn’t one of them. Like real estate sales people, they’re selling a product they have only a minor investment in.
Regardless, the high rollers in this most recent Republican-controlled Montana Legislature put guaranteed big game licenses for outfitter-guided nonresidents back in the regs, in a last day push, passing the enabling bill in what must be a record single day. Also, via what some say was a backdoor deal, an amendment authorizing thousands of additional nonresident permits was snuck into the law. Again, all of this happened on the last day of the legislature according to news reports, bypassing normal legislative routes, guaranteeing what may soon be tens of thousands of nonresident licenses available virtually across the table.
This after the landslide vote by Montana’s residents only a decade ago to abolish this type of shenanigans. It seems Montanans not only can’t control the avarice of their public service commissioners, but also they can’t control their ability to influence legal and ethical conduct from their legislators. And folks wonder why politicians have a bad name in polite society.
Now do you understand about those vigilantes in Virginia City a century ago? Or the “Molly Mcguires?” The private citizens formed together to enforce the law when the lawfully appointed abused it. When the law enforcers and regulators disregard the law, there is no law.
So, you ask, what harm can these new license regulations do, except to further crowd hunter densities in the state. They all spend money and that’s a good thing, no? No. With this guaranteed income, outfitters have leased up tens of thousands of acres, Texas style, that were formerly available for hunting and recreation to blue collar working stiffs who might have, at best, a couple of weekends to fill the families freezers.
Point is, Montana’s working class residents have an ethics concern with this legislature and with a greedy, short-sighted game and fish department. In other words, by legislative fiat, working class sportsmen and women have been pushed out of the recreational and subsistence hunting that used to be one of the few benefits of working for starvation wages in Montana – or Wyoming, for that matter. Of course, the rich always want what the sub-classes, economically speaking, have, and are always ready to usurp it.
Then again, the way these government sponsored and introduced wolves have raised merry hell with these two states big game wildlife resource, the whole problem may be moot.
Why am I picking on Montana? Simply put, I’m writing this to forewarn folks living in Wyoming that given the greedy, self-serving aspects of human nature, combined with corporate and political avarice, this blessing or one of a similar nature, from our own Game and Fish suits is probably already in the works.
After all, it seemed nobody believed anybody protesting the introduction of government sponsored, Canadian grey wolves and predicting the impact these furry hellions would make on our wildlife resource. Maybe this time folks will listen and take action when events culminate again.