Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trouble in Bird Dog Paradise

I recently became aware of a threat to bird dog folks who live in or visit Montana and train on wild birds. You need to read this, then call Mike Lee at FWP - the number is: 406-444-4039


The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is preparing to make dog training on wild birds essentially illegal without permission from the agency director. Conditions under which a "permit" might be acquired and the restrictions attached there to are not defined in the proposal. 

The ruling that FWP is proposing to adopt is:
  1. NEW RULE I PERMIT TO TRAIN DOGS IN UPLAND GAME BIRD NESTING AREAS


REASON: In recent years, the department has received both written and verbal complaints regarding massive dog training occurrences, primarily in Eastern Montana on both private and public ground. The dog training that has been documented includes as many as 60 dogs and also includes the use of horses. This happens in the months prior to hunting season and has had negative effects on the local bird populations and has decreased opportunity for the hunting public. 

The Fish and Wildlife Commission was also approached by bird hunters who were noticing a large decrease in the available birds during the hunting season. The commission in turn asked the department to do something to curtail the large-scale dog training. 

MCA 87-4-915 (5)(a) Dogs may be trained in open fields at any time without permission of the director only if:
(i) live game birds are not killed or captured during training; and
(ii) the training is more than 1 mile from any bird nesting or management area or game preserve.
The language in the statute indicates that permission from the director is needed to train dogs in bird nesting areas, management areas, or game preserves. The statute does not describe the mechanism by which an individual may attain permission nor does it define what bird nesting areas, management areas, or game preserves are. The language in the proposed rule will provide for that and help define a permitting system for the activities in question.
4. Concerned persons may submit their data, views, or arguments concerning the proposed action in writing to: Enforcement Division, Attn: Mike Lee, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Montana, 59620- 0701; or e-mail FWPDogTraining@mt.gov, and must be received no later than June 9, 2017.
5. If persons who are directly affected by the proposed action wish to express their data, views, or arguments orally or in writing at a public hearing, they must make written request for a hearing and submit this request along with any written comments to Mike Lee at the above address no later than May 26, 2017.
6. If the agency receives requests for a public hearing on the proposed action from either 10 percent or 25, whichever is less, of the persons directly affected by the proposed action; from the appropriate administrative rule review committee of the Legislature; from a governmental subdivision or agency; or from an association having not less than 25 members who will be directly affected, a hearing will be held at a later date. Notice of the hearing will be published in the Montana Administrative Register. Ten percent of those directly affected has been determined to be greater than 25 persons based on the number of people in Montana who bird hunt with bird dogs. 

 Back channel information...  

This proposal apparently sprang into being at the behest of a small group of land owners in the Scobey area (in the far northeastern corner of Montana). Friction has been building between the landowners and a professional bird dog trainer. The land owners want to sell bird hunts and feel that the dog trainer scatters the birds while training in the pre-birdseason dog training period - July 15 to August 31. Add to this the apparently abrasive attitude of the trainer and there 'ya go - a new state law that will punish everyone. 

 More effective ways to disturb/scatter game birds prior to the season...

1. Build lots of new roads and fraking ponds/well sites, etc.

2. Fail to order enough local rainfall, or too much, or allow hail to fall on your hunting/ranching area when the birds are nesting.

3. Cut your hay, wheat, barley, etc. before nesting is completed. You will produce lots of dead/dying young game birds for the crows, vultures, and four footed consumers.

4. Spray pesticides and herbicides on the earth.

5. Take land out of CRP for crop production. 

6. Eliminate ground cover and edge cover for game birds by discing and planting marginal ground.

Personally, I think running some dogs across the countryside is very far down from the top of the list. But it might help a few people at the expnse of many others.

I have been going to Montana to train may dogs every summer for most of the past decade. I run on private ground with the permission of the land owner. I put a little money into the local economy. It is  great place to train. If I can't go there, I'll go to the Dakotas, Idaho, Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba. 

There are more than a few people who derive a living from training bird dogs in Montana, and there are many people, professionals and amateurs alike, who go to the last best place for bird dogs and bird hunters in prder to train on real live game birds. Sadly, the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is attempting to make this ruling and avoid the process of holding hearings for public input prior to adoption of the new rules. Go to the department site and comment and call Mike Lee (and anyone else you know at FWD). If the phone lights up and enough comments are posted, perhaps this can be beaten back or modified to allow sensible use of the resource.

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