The evolution of wildlife legislation and management in Montana in the later part of the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century reflected a serious concern to protect and preserve wildlife. Some interesting changes that occurred during these years are listed within this timeline. These are by no means a complete list of the many changes but provide a thumbnail sketch of some of the important decisions made in years past.
First laws protecting game birds.
First closed season on buffalo, Moose, elk, deer , bighorn sheep, mountain goats, antelope, and hares.
Passenger pigeon extinct.
First closed season on furbearing animals.
First closed season on ducks and geese.
Law passed making it unlawfull to kill game animals for hides alone.
Trapping of beaver prohibited except on private lands.
Unlawfull to hunt or chase game animals with dogs.
Sale of game birds for market purposes prohibited.
Law prohibiting destroying nests of gamebirds and waterfowl or to take eggs away from nests.
First year-round closed season on moose and elk.
First fish and game board authorized by Legislature.
Big Game Season – September 1-January 1 set by Legislature.
Limits: 8 deer, 8 bighorn sheep, 8 mountain goats, 8 antelope, 2 moose, 2 elk.
First daily bag limit placed on game birds.
Sale of game animals, game birds prohibited.
Moose season closed and remain closed until 1945.
W. F. Scott, first State Fish and Game Warden (Director) appointed by Governor.
First license required (nonresidents only) to take game animals and game birds. Nonresidents required to purchase hunting license at $25 – game animal, $15 – game birds.
Guide’s License required.
First resident hunting and fishing license required at cost of $1 per family.
Ring necked pheasant introduced to Bitteroot Valley.
First daily bag limit on wild ducks 20 per day.
Slatewide season open October 1–December 1 for 3 deer, 1 elk, 1 sheep, 1 goat (closed on antelope, moose, caribou, bison)
First elk transplanted in Montana to Fleecer Mountain, Silver Bow County, from Yellowstone National Park.
Montana Fish and Game Commission organized.
Last Audubon sheep killed in Garfield County.
Restriction on use of automobile to kill game.
First license required for taking fur animals.
1921 Legislature established modern system of five Fish and Game Commissioners to be appointed by Governor.
Grizzly bear protection follows its classification as a game animal.
First land acquired for game management purposes: 27 acres at Red Rock Lakes, Beaverhead County.
The Fish and Game Commission establishes a daily limit of 40 fish, not to exceed 20 pounds and one fish. No more than five fish can be less than seven inches long and the limits applied to all species combined. The season is closed from March 15 to May 20.
First pheasent season in montana.
State Land Board is authorized to set aside state lands for parks.
First Hungarian partridge season in Montana.
First game farm at Warm Springs.
First big game resident license to take deer and elk, cost of $1.
First Chuckers released in Montana.
First duck hunting stamp sold in Montana.
Statewide buck law declared – 29,699 resident big game licenses sold at $1 each.
First winter deer ranges leased in Sanders, Missoula and Powell Counties.
C. M. Russell Game Range (Fort Peck Game Range) created by Congress (97,000 acres).
Lewis and Clark Caverns is donated as Montana’s first state park.
Commission reduces the limit for trout to 15 fish, not to exceed 15 pounds and one fish.
First comprehensive legislation establishes a State Park System and a separate State Park Commission.
First acquisition of the Judith River Game Range for elk winter range, Judith Basin County.
First state big game manager position created.
The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (P-R) program began.
First wildlife biologist hired.
Commission establishes a program to obtain scientific data as a basis for wildlife management.
First mountain goats transplanted in Montana from Deep Creek, Teton County to Crazy Mountains, Sweetgrass County .
First bighorn sheep transplanted from Sun River, Teton County to Gates of Mountains, Lewis and Clark County.
First mule deer transplanted from NationalBison Range to Glendive badlands.
First white-tailed deer transplanted from Flathead County to Stillwater or Carbon County.
First antelope transplanted in Montana from Broadwater County to Gallatin County.
First fish biologist hired.
State Parks receive their first legislative appropriation.
Administration of State Parks is transferred to the Highway Commission with a $45,000 annual budget.
Freezout Lake waterfowl hunting area acquired in Teton County.
First Turkey transplant in the Judith Mountains from Colorado.
Montana Water Pollution Control Law is passed.
Estimated statewide deer harvest reaches 100,000.
First deer archery season statewide.
The Wildlife Laboratory, Montana Fish and Game Department, started operations at Montana State College, Bozeman.
Biologists from FWP, MSU and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service develop the nation’s first stream rating map. The system was designed to pick out the cream of the crop — the “Blue Ribbon”streams.
The Commission reduces the daily limit to 10 trout or 10 pounds and one fish.
First special turkey license issued.
Thirty-six fisher were introduced in three areas on northwestern Montana.
Bounty on mountain lion discontinued.
First Streambank Preservation Act passed.
Montana Department of Fish and Game takes on management of State Parks.
A new Sportsman’s License and a youth license established.
Canyon Ferry game management area project for waterfowl initiated.
Montana Environmental Policy Act, the first comprehensive environmental bill, is passed by Legislature.
New State Constitution declares that Montana’s Legislature “shall provide adequate remedies for the protection of the environmental life support system from degradation and provide adequate remedies to prevent unreasonable depletion and degradation of natural resources.”
Congress passes the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
The Water Use Act is passed.
Fish and Game Commission changes the stocking policy.
FWP no longer stocks catchable-sized trout in streams with healthy wild trout populations.
Legislature protects the Yellowstone River by placing a moratorium on granting major new water rights.
Grizzly bear classified as a threatened species in the lower 48 states.
The Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act is passed.
Coal Tax Park Acquisition Trust Fund is established at 2.5 percent of Coal Severance Tax receipts.
Expansion of the Fishing Access Site Program; portion of angler license fee is earmarked to purchase new sites.
Board of Natural Resources and Conservation grants a major instream water allocation for fish and wildlife and other purposes in the Yellowstone River Basin.
The Fish and Game Commission establishes the first special management area by adopting a catch-and-release regulation on a portion of the Madison River.
Montana Department of Fish and Game becomes modern Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
Endrin crisis strikes Montana. Warnings on potential contamination of game birds and waterfowl keep hunters at home.
Governor Schwinden signs bill to make the Grizzly Bear Montana’s official state mammal
Block Management Program established.
All Coal Tax earnings earmarked for the Parks Trust are diverted to the General Fund until June 30, 1989: Parks Trust interest earnings are diverted solely to park maintenance.
Legislature passes House Bill 526, landmark legislation, which provides a source of funds for habitat protection.
All General fund support of the State Park System is eliminated.
Entrance fees are initiated at State Parks.
State Park Futures Committee’s report to the governor recommends an additional $6.3 million per year over five years and 30 new full-time employees to upgrade the Park System.
Montana Fish and Game Commission name changed to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission.
FWP’s “Habitat Montana” program is created.
Legislature establishes the third week in September as “Hunting Heritage Week”.
Legislature creates a 7-year waiting period for those who receive a moose, mountain goat or bighorn sheep permit through the special drawings.
For the first time, floaters are charged a fee on the Smith River.
Governor Stan Stephens creates the Montana Landowner-Sportsman Council to maintain and improve favorable relations and communications between Montana’s landowners and sportsmen.
At the call of Governor Stephens, Montana hosts the first-in-the-nation Governor’s Symposium on North America’s Hunting Heritage
Legislature passes House Joint Resolution 24, calling for a Private Lands/Public Wildlife Advisory Council and Governor Marc Racicot creates the council in May.
Whirling Disease is found in the Upper Madison River.
Legislature passes House Bill 195 establishing a variable-priced license for nonresident clients of outfitters with the proceeds dedicated to improving public hunting access to private lands.
Governor Racicot appoints a Whirling Disease Task Force to advise the state on how it should address threats presented by the disease. Portions of the Madison River are closed to angling, and a conference drawing national experts on the disease is held in Bozeman.
Legislature establishes the Future Fisheries Improvement Program to enhance stream rehabilitation efforts.
The Parks Division initiates a comprehensive plan for the Montana State Parks System (“2020 Vision for Montana State Parks”).
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation is created
“Back from the Brink–Montana’s Wildlife Legacy” two-part historical documentary premiered.