Evaluation of Montana's block management program
Johnson, Kelvin Ray.
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The Block Management Program, initiated in 1985, was implemented to encourage private landowners to provide free public hunting access. Currently, the program has over 1,200 landowners enrolling 8.8 million acres, and provides over 400,000 hunter days of free public hunting. Surveys were sent to 423 landowners (303 returned) and 1,636 hunters (976 returned) to evaluate current perceptions of block management area (BMA) users. Observations, expectations, and satisfaction levels were determined by calculating frequencies and means using SAS 8.2, and then comparisons between permission method strategies and between geographic regions were evaluated. Landowners were satisfied with permission methods used, numbers of hunters received annually, and with hunter limit and travel restriction rules utilized, but satisfaction levels regarding relative game abundance and harvest success were higher in Eastern Montana than in Western Montana.Hunters were very successful in gaining permission to BMAs, and were satisfied with travel restrictions encountered, but satisfaction levels regarding amounts of other hunters seen were higher on Type 2 and on Eastern Montana BMAs. Satisfaction with game abundance was higher on Eastern Montana BMAs, and was higher with harvest success on Type 2 and Eastern Montana BMAs. Program success was evident by levels of satisfaction with the various hunter management tools evaluated by this study, but some areas needed improvement, such as increased efforts to sign BMAs, improve maps, and provide refuse receptacles to further decrease hunter violations. This study also provided insight for designing strategies that meet specific preferences and expectations of program users when developing new BMAs, including permission method, hunter number management, and travel management strategies.