HELENA — In 2021, the Montana Legislature approved an increase to the payment cap from $15,000 to $25,000 dollars to compensate landowners that open their land to the public under Fish, Wildlife, and Park's block management program. On Tuesday, Governor Greg Gianforte signed SB 58 into law which will double that compensation cap from $25,000 to $50,000 dollars.
The Montana Legislature created the program in 1985 to open land to hunters with help from property owners. At that time, a landowner could make as much as $8,000 a year depending on the number of hunters who used their access point.
Gianforte said Tuesday's bill signing near the Sieben Ranch BMA is an exciting day for Montanans and an investment into Montana's block management program.
The bill brought by Republican Senator Steve Hinebauch of Wibaux received bi-partisan support in both chambers of the Montana legislature, with a 45-3 vote in favor of the bill in the Senate and a 95-2 vote in the House on the bill's final readings.
According to FWP's website, there are many block management areas around Montana, however, some see considerably more use than others which led to some landowners meeting the most recent cap of $25,000 dollars, but still being required to keep their land open per the agreement.
"With the old cap, we were having some landowners have hundreds and thousands of hunter days that they weren't being compensated for, and that's a lot of impact. So, that's one of the reasons this bill is really important. It also makes block management competitive with other opportunities that landowners have when considering access programs for their lands," said Marina Yoshioka, FWP Region 3 Supervisor.
Yoshioka noted that approximately 20 block management co-operators hit the $25,000 cap, and by doubling the cap it should accommodate all landowners.
"We're really grateful for all the co-operators who choose to participate," said Yoshioka. "It's a great benefit for the public and for private landowners, and it's just a really special partnership that doesn't exist in a lot of other places."
Following Tuesday's signing, the bill goes into effect as law immediately.