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Elk Management Symposium set for this weekend

Posted at 11:19 AM, Aug 10, 2022

BOZEMAN — Elk are an important part of life in Montana, and also the topic of sometimes contentious debate. That’s why the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition is sponsoring a day-long symposium on the subject in Bozeman.

The Rialto plays host on Saturday, August 13th for the 2022 Elk Management Symposium. Gerald Martin joined MTN’s Chet Layman live during Montana This Morning to talk about the symposium. Martin, who is one of the many panelists for the gathering says the goal is to bring together as many players on the subject as possible and initiate discussion. Martin says often times the best solutions often come from people who are dealing with the issue, on the ground. He says this symposium will bring together those people, plus involve the interested public in beginning conversations that could lead to positive changes. He says panelists range from FWP and US Fish and Wildlife officials to land owners, and outdoorsmen like himself. He notes that no policy will come from this day-long discussion, but he says the hope is maybe new ideas that could lead to positive changes might. Martin also notes that folks unable to attend in person can watch a live stream of the symposium by going to

Here's a look at the agenda for the symposium and the panelist list:

9:30 am: Welcome 

Emcee George Bettas & Facilitator Barb Beck will welcome the audience & provide a brief overview of the day’s program and goals. 

9:45 am: The state of elk in Montana 

Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Pat Byorth will deliver remarks on the current state of elk management planning and what the commission is looking for in terms of citizen participation. 

10:00 am: Panel: Shared elk and shared values

George Bernard Shaw once famously said that “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.” The same may also be said for how hunters, landowners and outfitters speak and think about elk. This panel will delve into how we can share our values, concerns, and ideas without shutting down receptive conversations. 

11:30 am:  Break

11:45 am: Panel: What the science tells us 

This panel will explore the science behind predator/prey relationships, disease, elk management and hunter pressure as drivers of elk distribution and concentrations. 

1:00pm: Lunch break

2:00 pm: Panel: Lessons from other states 

Experts from New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming and Idaho will discuss how elk management drives season setting and landowner programs in their respective states while reviewing what has worked and what hasn't.

3:15 pm: Break

3:30 pm: Panel: Exploring solutions 

Identifying durable solutions for vexing wildlife conflicts is critical to good outcomes for hunters, landowners, ranchers, and outfitters. With a legislative session coming up in less than six months, a new Elk Management Plan on the horizon and another round of season setting in 2023, there is no lack of opportunity to identify and advance reasonable solutions.  

4:45-5:00pm: Wrap-up and adjourn. 

6:00-9:00pm: Social

Please stick around for light refreshments and a cash bar to expand on the panel discussions and keep the conversation flowing. 

  • George Bettas — Emcee

George is a well-respected figure in the hunting and conservation community. He is a founder and past President of the Mule Deer Foundation, served as Chair of the Board for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, became a Regular Member of Boone and Crockett Club in 1989, and recently retired as Executive Director of Boone and Crockett Club.

  •  Barb Beck — Facilitator

Barb recently left Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks after five years as a regional supervisor and one year with the director’s office during which she received two Governor’s awards for leadership. She is also President of Beck Consulting, which provides services in facilitation, team building, conflict management, land use and resource planning, strategic planning, and organizational transition.

  •  Pat Byorth — FWP Commission Representative

Pat currently serves on the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Commission. Pat is also the Montana Water Director for Trout Unlimited’s Western Water and Habitat Project. His work at Trout Unlimited has focused on restoration of instream flows and habitats to benefit native and wild fishes through community-based efforts, water transactions, and water policy reform.

  •  Randy Newberg — Shared values moderator

As the host of Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg, Randy has become the voice of the public land hunter in America. What many might not know is that Randy has been active in bringing landowners and hunters together to deal with tough issues for decades. His work on the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and on other state-level coalitions and programs has helped him create a shared understanding between many different interests. Randy lives just outside of Bozeman, Montana.

  •  Kathy Hadley — Shared values panelist

Kathy is a rancher in the Deer Lodge Valley and has been a leader in the Montana conservation world since the 1980’s where she helped draft the original Block Management and Habitat Montana Legislation. Kathy’s work has also included being the Executive Director of the National Center for Appropriate Technology and a Board Chair of the National Wildlife Federation.

  • Denley Loge — Shared values panelist

Denley is a Republican Legislator out of St. Regis, MT where he also raises livestock and deals with elk and wolf conflict on a daily basis. Representative Loge is a member of the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee and is a former member of the Private Lands/Public Wildlife Committee, and is a Block Management Cooperator.

  •  Scott Hibbard — Shared values panelist

Scott is a landowner, author and member of the Devil’s Kitchen Working Group that has led the way in reducing conflict between landowners, outfitters and hunters. He was also instrumental in helping set up the Master Hunter program from One Montana. He lives outside of Helena, Montana.

  •  Dan Vermillion — Shared values panelist

Dan is a fishing outfitter and former chair of the Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission. For over 14 years, Dan served on the commission, crafting compromise solutions on elk archery issues, brucellosis management and a host of other contentious issues. He lives in Livingston, Montana.

  •  Dr. Chris Servheen — Science panel moderator

Chris is the former US Fish & Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator and the current president of the Montana Wildlife Federation. Dr. Servheen is a world-renowned expert on large carnivores and continues to work as an adjunct research associate professor at the University of Montana. He currently lives in Missoula, Montana.

  •  Jon Horne — Science Panelist

Jon is a senior wildlife research biologist at the Idaho Department of Game & Fish, where his work focuses on large carnivore interactions with ungulates and the habitat systems needed to ensure viable populations of wildlife. His work has led to a greater understanding of the impacts of wolf predation as well as the role that a functioning habitat plays on the survivability of ungulates in predator-heavy areas. He lives in Moscow Idaho.

  • Dr. Brent Race — Science panelist

Brent is a staff scientist at the National Institute of Health and is focusing his work on Chronic Wasting Disease and how it can impact human health. He has also served on the Fish, WIldlife and Parks Citizen’s Elk Advisory Board and is an avid houndsman. He lives in Hamilton, Montana.

  •  Craig Jourdonnais — Science panelist

Craig is a 30-year veteran biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks with an impressive track record in both research & management. Craig’s work in the Madison Valley and the Bitterroot Valleys were instrumental in achieving meaningful management prescriptions and he now serves as the Big Game Researcher for the MPG Ranch outside of Missoula, Montana.

  • Ken Hamlin — Science Panel

Ken is a retired FWP Research Biologist and the primary author of the 2006 Montana Elk Management Plan. Known as Dr. Wapiti to his colleagues, few public employees have the breadth and depth of elk management experience as Ken. He lives outside of Bozeman, Montana.

  •  Andrew McKean — Lessons moderator

Andrew is the Hunting and Conservation Editor of Outdoor Life magazine, as well as a livestock producer outside of Glasgow, Montana. Andrew also served briefly as a Montana Fish & Wildlife Commissioner and is a well known figure in the hunting world, having spent his entire career hunting across the globe. He lives in Glasgow Montana, where he also helps coach the Glasgow Scotties Track team.

  •  Jessi Johnson — Lessons panelist

Jessi is the Government Affairs Director for the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and has been an advocate for wildlife and hunting for over 6 years. She lives in Lander, Wyoming.

  • Cody McKee — Lessons panelist

Cody is the Elk & Moose Specialist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife and as such, oversees their landowner tag program as well as elk management prescriptions in general. He lives in Reno, Nevada.

  •  Garret Visser — Lessons panelist

Garret is the Conservation Program Coordinator for the Idaho Wildlife Federation. He has extensive experience working with landowners and wildlife managers to help conserve migration corridors as well as tackle thorny issues with a sense of empathy for all involved. He lives in Boise, Idaho.

  •  Jeremy Vesbach — Lessons panelist

Jeremy is a Montana native, growing up along the Big Horn River in Southeastern Montana. He is also a former New Mexico Game and Fish Commissioner and former executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

  •  Marcia Brownlee — Solutions Moderator

Marcia is the program manager for the National Wildlife Federation’s Artemis Sportswomen initiative, where she focuses on creating a community of powerful, informed sportswomen who will foster positive change and defend and secure the future of our public lands, waters, and wildlife.

  •  Senator Jeff Wellborn — Solutions panelist

Jeff represents Senate District 36 in Beaverhead County. His work has led to better outcomes for landowners, outfitters and hunters. He is the current chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee and his family has been in livestock production in Beaverhead County for generations. He lives in Dillon, MT.

  •  Senator Tom Jacobson — Solutions panelist

Tom represents Senate District 11 in Great Falls. He is an avid hunter and angler as well as a ranking member of the Senate Fish & Game Committee and a leader on collaborative legislation to improve wildlife management in the Legislature. He lives in Great Falls, Montana.

  •  Gerald Martin — Solutions panelist

Gerald is a housing contractor and avid outdoorsman and mentor to many. Like many Montanans, Gerald spends significant time volunteering on wildlife issues and advocating for better management of all wildlife. He lives outside of Bozeman, Montana.

  •  Eric Albus — Solutions panelist (tenative)

Eric is a 4th generation rancher & outfitter outside of Malta, Montana. He currently serves on the Private Land/Public Wildlife Committee and is the vice-president of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.