Educating Sportsmen in Montana about the Impacts of Climate Change

Jessi Kershner
Posted on: 11/02/2015 - Updated on: 10/31/2022

Posted by

Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) is an organization dedicated to land stewardship, expanding habitat and increasing public access to quality hunting and fishing. In 2007, Bill Geer of the TRCP piloted the Sportsmen's Values Mapping Project in Montana, which captures sportsmen’s input to delineate highly valued hunting and fishing areas. This information is intended to complement critical habitat maps and connectivity areas already in use or identified by federal and state agencies, and to encourage decision makers to adopt policies that conserve and protect areas important for wildlife as well as continued use by sportsmen. 


The TRCP is focused on integrating conservation, restoration, and mitigation sciences, and traditional social uses into land use and development decisions. This includes addressing the impacts of climate change on sportsmen, which range from shifting seasonal distributions of game to limited habitat ranges for coldwater fish. TRCP works with a Climate Change Working Group to encourage federal agencies to incorporate climate change adaptation into policies supporting wildlife. Other members of this working group include the American Fisheries Society, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, BASS/ESPN Outdoors, Coastal Conservation Association, Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League of America, Land Trust Alliance, Mule Deer Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, New York State Conservation Council, Inc., Pheasants Forever, Quail Unlimited, The Wildlife Society, Trout Unlimited, and the Wildlife Management Institute. In addition, TRCP has participated in the development of two publications addressing climate change impacts and adaptation with respect to wildlife: Seasons’ End: Global Warming’s Threat to Hunting and Fishing and Beyond Seasons' End: A Path Forward for Fish and Wildlife in the Era of Climate Change. TRCP has also worked to educate and engage sportsmen on climate change issues.

In 2007, the TRCP launched the Sportsmen's Values Mapping Project in Montana, which uses sportsmen’s input to map key hunting and fishing areas throughout the state. This information will be used to show decision makers the areas sportsmen value most and want to retain in the face of development pressures. In addition, the project is intended to complement critical habitat and connectivity maps developed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) as part of their Crucial Areas Planning System (CAPS). Information from both projects will be used to develop policies and strategies that balance human and environmental needs under future conditions, such as increasing human development pressures and likely climate change impacts on fish and wildlife populations. 


Geer initiated the Sportsmen's Values Mapping Project in Billings, Montana. He asked members of sportsmen organizations to identify and map the most highly regarded areas for hunting or fishing in Montana. To encourage groups to participate, Geer focused on a couple of key points including:

  • public lands are increasingly threatened by energy development, subdivision development, and transmission corridors (e.g., oil and gas pipelines, electrical wires);
  • the information provided by the groups would not be shared with private interests (e.g., favorite fishing spots would not be revealed to Field & Stream magazine); and
  • the information would be used to help guide oil and gas leasing on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Montana Department of Natural Resource and Conservation to ensure critical lands remained undeveloped and accessible.

Initially Geer targeted groups affiliated with the Montana Wildlife Federation; each one recommended other organizations to talk to until he built a network of 43 sportsmen organizations throughout 32 Montana communities.

Funding for the project was provided by the Cinnabar Foundation, American Prairie Foundation, American Public Lands Exchange, and several sportsmen clubs; about $20,000 was needed for travel expenses.

Outcomes and Conclusions

Of the approximately 94 million acres in Montana, sportsmen identified over 76 million acres of hunting and angling areas of interest. One area in particular, the Russell National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), was identified through the Montana CAPS project as being critical for species of concern and as a wildlife corridor; it was also identified as an area especially important to sportsmen. The next step was to develop a Special Conservation Strategy for the area, which includes:

  • A boundary defined by most important hunting areas;
  • Public lands in the BLM’s 2007 lease sale that were not leased by energy companies;
  • A requirement for the BLM to designate identified public lands as unsuitable for oil and gas leasing; and
  • A requirement for the BLM to develop multiple use management that protects important hunting and fishing opportunities.

The values map has also been used in the acquisition of over 8,000 acres of public lands in the Tenderfoot Creek Area, a tributary of the Smith River in central Montana. The Special Conservation Strategy also protects crucial habitat area for terrestrial game species and terrestrial species of concern identified by the Montana CAPS.

Following the initial mapping work, Geer then traveled back to the sportsmen organizations to educate them about the effects of climate change on wildlife and fish populations. This work was aimed at encouraging the development and support of adaptation strategies to help manage fish and wildlife in changing climate conditions.

Lessons learned from the project include:

  1. The best time for meeting with groups is in the spring when sportsmen are generally around because it is the off-season.
  2. Do not violate the groups’ trust (e.g., by sharing best hunting spots) or take them for granted; Geer has remained in touch with every organization.
  3. Sportsmen are, by-and-large, a conservative group, so extreme statements should be avoided.

TRCP is now in the process of implementing this project in other Western states, including Idaho, Wyoming, and Arizona


Kershner, J. (2015). Educating Sportsmen in Montana about the Impacts of Climate Change. [Case study on a project of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated October 2015)

Affiliated Organizations

We believe when sportsmen unite, working in coordinated partnership, it amplifies and strengthens the voices of the conservation community. To this end, the TRCP and its partner organizations work together on certain issues, identify areas of consensus, work towards conservation priorities and establish plans for action. In addition to our board, policy council, union partners and staff, the TRCP is made up of 35,000 individual advocates and 1,400 affiliated local- and state-level clubs and organizations.

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