Catch and release may be the next battleground

Back in the pool

Here's my most recent column on catch-and-release fishing and a potential new line of attack on angler conservationists.

It's no secret that animal rights zealots hate hunting. Catch-and-release fishing, on the other hand, has been heralded as a great conservation tool in Montana and anyplace sport fishing is popular. But new, and stunningly myopic research hints at a new line of attack: it's bad for fish.

Healthy trout populations in heavily fished Montana rivers and streams say otherwise.

FWP commission approves Big Belt land purchase

The FWP commission has given its approval to purchasing 5,000 acres in the Big Belt Mountains near Helena. The purchase could provide public access in a hunt unit where the elk population is over objective.

The purchase still has a long way to go, including appraisals and, finally, State Land Board approval. The the approval process for state land purchases has been cast in turmoil recently with the governor taking the attorney general to court regarding a legal opinion on conservation easement.

Governor sues AG on easement dispute

Gov. Steve Bullock challenged the legal opinion of Tim Fox, the state's attorney general, regarding conservation easements. Bullock took his case to the Montana Supreme Court, arguing that State Land Board approval isn't needed for conservation easements. Fox's opinion that Land Board approval is required, which he issued last week after Bullock Ok'd the 15,000-acre Horse Creek Conservation Easement in eastern Montana last week, has the force of law unless the court overturns it.