The United Property Owners of Montana (UPOM) - a group representing wealthy, out-of-state interests and some resident landowners - filed suit in May 2022 against the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) and the Fish and Wildlife Commission throughout the Big Sky State.
UPOM has a long history of working to privatize public lands, shut down public access, and reduce elk hunting opportunities for the average Montanan. Now they are risking decades of wildlife management policy by taking decisions away from FWP and the Fish & Wildlife Commission and handing them over to individuals to make deals out of the public eye.
Montanans have spoken loudly and clearly in support of our current system during the legislature and FWP’s season-setting. Now, UPOM is trying to force unwanted changes in hunting and wildlife management systems through the courts. What is at risk? A large-scale culling of our treasured elk populations, the loss of Montana’s invaluable and equitable hunting traditions, and unknown impacts upon our wildlife ecosystems.
Why are we fighting this? Our coalition believes it is wrong to privatize and sell Montana’s elk to the highest bidder, and that taking management decisions away from our scientists and wildlife managers sets a dangerous precedent.
UPOM states that “Everyone owns something, and whether it’s a city lot or a sprawling ranch, your property rights are sacred to you.” What UPOM has gotten wrong is that our elk and wildlife belong to ALL Montanans, and we are the stewards of these animals for future generations. Together, we will fight to protect sane oversight and equitable use of these resources.
Montana’s hunters and wildlife advocates cannot stand idly by and ignore these direct attacks on Montana’s elk population, watching our elk be turned into high-brow hunting tags sold to the highest bidder. Helena Hunters and Anglers, Hellgate Hunters and Anglers, Montana Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Montana Bowhunters Association, Montana Wildlife Federation, Public Land Water Access Association and Skyline Sportsmen's Association have formally intervened in the lawsuit. These groups reject UPOM’s agenda and are committed to defending our premier wildlife management heritage and hunting traditions for future generations of Montanans to enjoy.