Now that the Weyerhaeuser merger with Plum Creek is complete, hunters are concerned they'll lose access to Plum Creek's land.
Weyerhaeuser, which is one of the largest landowning companies in the world, just got a little bit bigger with the completion of their $8 billion merger with Plum Creek in Montana. Sportsmen in Montana are now waiting to see how Weyerhaeuser handles the issue of hunter access on the lands formerly owned by Plum Creek.
Plum Creek owned hundreds of thousands of land in Montana that had been previously open to hunters under the company's "open lands" policy. Weyerhaeuser has publicly stated that it will maintain Plum Creek's access policies. Pretty simple right? Perhaps, but maybe not.
Weyerhaeuser has bad reputation among sportsmen in the Pacific Northwest for charging fees for leases and access permits that some would describe as excessive. Their recent decision to change almost all of their lands in Washington and Oregon from free access to a "pay for use" permit/lease system during hunting season is still a fresh and painful memory for sportsmen there.
With this in mind, sportsmen in Montana have good reason to be suspicious of statements that Weyerhaeuser makes about preserving public access on their land in the state. Fortunately, Montana hunters have a major ally in the Montana Block Management Program that hunters in Washington and Oregon didn't have.
Plum Creek participated in the program and Weyerhaeuser will likely continue to do so as well because the company receives compensation from the state in exchange for offering free access for hunters. Politicians and conservation groups in Montana have also started to let Weyerhaeuser know that they'll meet resistance if they try to emulate their tactics used in Washington and Oregon.
In the short term at least, it appears as though hunters who want to access the lands formerly owned by Plum Creek in Montana will still be able to do so for free. Let's hope that continues to be the case for a long time.