A Montana sportsmen’s organization is taking outdoor retail giant Cabela’s to task for its online listing of large-tract hunting properties, claiming that such real estate sales could potentially have an adverse affect on the use of property once accessible to hunters and anglers.
My longtime friend and associate Mark Henckel, the fine outdoors scribe for the Billings Gazette, writes that the Montana Wildlife Federation has sent two letters to Cabela’s management detailing its specific concern over the retailer’s involvement in selling key pieces of wildlife habitat in Montana, including the 29,000-acre Weaver Ranch, which had been enrolled in the state’s Block Management Program. Through the Block Management Program, farmers and ranchers are paid by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to provide free public access to resident and nonresident hunters.
A May 30 letter from MWF executive director Craig Sharpe stated, in part: “The first words on the website of Cabela’s Trophy Properties, under the question: What is Cabela’s Trophy Properties? reads, ‘For over 46 years, sportsmen have trusted Cabela’s.’ Regrettably, we now come to the conclusion that we sportsmen of Montana can trust Cabela’s no longer.”
Pretty strong words, if you ask me.
A few days later, Cabela’s president and CEO Dennis Highby responded to Sharpe’s contentions, noting that Cabela’s Trophy Properties is simply a recreational property listing service, and that listed properties are also being marketed independent of the Sidney, Nebraska-based company.
“All of the properties marketed by Cabela’s Trophy Properties are already for sale to the public…we do not get involved in the sale or purchase of any property,” Highby wrote.
The CEO’s explanation apparently didn’t pacify the MWF leadership, and last week Sharpe sent another, strongly worded correspondence, Henckel reported.
“Some of our members have noticed the ‘For Sale’ notices for traditional public hunting, private properties on the Cabela’s website, and in local ag-news publications, and are now calling for a strong public hunter response in Montana, such as burning or mailing back their Cabela’s catalog.”
I’ve blogged before about the current trend of corporations purchasing large expanses of land once thought to be worthless to agriculture, property that has now become valuable to hunters and anglers. In fact, many real estate companies and entrepreneurs are specializing in locating and marketing such land.
Are sportsmen’s groups justified in threatening to boycott these companies and individuals for simply being a part of the sales and marketing process?