A statewide hearing on a potential non-hunting wolf stamp was just as long and heated as any wolf hunting discussion of the past, with some hunters and landowners opposing other hunters and conservationists.

On Thursday night, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks hosted a video conference hearing on the proposed wolf management stamp and allowed public comment from all seven region headquarters in the state.

Most of the more than 100 comments came from Missoula and Bozeman. More than 50 people filled the Region 3 Headquarters in Bozeman.

The majority of opponents were hunters like Region 1 bow-hunter Mike Shepard, who opposed the idea of a stamp that had no hunting application. Many hunters insisted that nonconsumptive users could buy the existing conservation stamp if they wanted to contribute.

Many said they feared that allowing non-hunters to buy stamps would allow non-hunters to demand that FWP manage game differently. They also mistakenly thought that the creation of a wolf stamp would eliminate lethal control of wolves.

“I’m against anything that would allow these guys to have a seat at the sportsmen’s table,” Shepard said.

The FWP commission proposed the wolf management stamp in May as a vehicle for nonconsumptive users to contribute to wildlife management.

The number of hunters nationwide has slowly been dropping over the past few decades, and that could spell trouble for an agency that depends largely on revenue from hunting and fishing licenses.

Since hunters and fishermen aren’t the only ones who benefit from wildlife, the stamp would allow nonconsumptive users to contribute to wildlife management.

As proposed, any resident or nonresident could donate $20 to FWP and receive a stamp. That money would be earmarked first for administration of the stamp. Any money left over would be divvied equally between the livestock loss program; wolf monitoring, habitat protection or habitat acquisition, research or education; and the hiring of additional wardens.

Some who opposed the stamp sparked at the mention of acquiring habitat for wolves.

“I see no need for new habitat until you can manage the habitat you have,” said Steve Jennings of the Beaverhead Outdoors Association.

Nonconsumptive users repeatedly thanked FWP for allowing them a chance to contribute and said they would purchase many stamps to give as Christmas presents.

“I applaud the fact that it is a new model in how to achieve a balance between different needs,” said Paula Gordon from Region 1.

Representatives of conservation groups praised the wolf management stamp, but all had a few changes they wanted to see, including changing the name to a “wolf conservation” stamp.

They also wanted to clarify that the money should go to nonlethal management methods and wanted FWP to be transparent about how much money was collected and what it paid for.

While some sportsmen were vehemently against the stamp, other sportsmen voiced their support for an additional FWP funding source.

“Wildlife is a public trust, it is owned by everybody so everybody should have a say,” said Helena sportsman Ben Lamb. “For the hunting community to say that ‘We don’t want this’ ignores an opportunity to have a new group of people who love wildlife to stand up and fight with us. For us to say ‘We don’t want your money’ is incredibly short-sighted.”

The comments collected Thursday night will be used to inform the final decision on the proposed stamp, but comments will be accepted until Aug. 22.

Laura Lundquist can be reached at llundquist@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-1234.

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