Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are taking a new approach to managing the state's elk herds, one that takes a deeper look at numbers instead of just managing the overall population quotas.

And starting this week, FWP is asking hunters to review the plans and offer their comments and suggestions.

The plan is the result of extensive outreach last summer which looked into issues of the capacity of habitat to carry certain elk herds, what kinds of experiences elk hunters are looking for, and what land owners can tolerate when it comes to having herds near their properties. FWP held 50 meetings across the state.

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“We’re anxious for public input on this new draft plan, particularly on the hunting district objectives and the suite of management tools we have laid out,” -FWP Director Dustin Temple.

The new elk plan uses numbers differently

In the past, management objectives were primarily focused strictly on elk population numbers, which would then determine hunting numbers for individual units around Montana. However, that would frequently lead to issues where elk populations may drop because of increases in herd size, or pressure from predators. Or, land owners would be faced with impacts to crops and livestock when population numbers would climb.

The draft plan changes those population goals by allowing increases by focusing on "population ranges" but also incorporating important herd dynamics, like bull-to-cow ratios. That would allow districts with low bull-to-calf ratios to see a "leveling out" of elk B licenses, but "with a decrease in either-sex opportunity to increase bull numbers."

Comment now on the draft plan

FWP is asking hunters to log on and review the proposed changes and offer their comments by July 31st. There will also be a draft environmental assessment issued in about a week so people can comment specifically on the environmental impacts of the proposed changes.

Comments can be made on each individual hunting district.

READ MORE: Bitterroot National Forest makes changes for elk management

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