Accessing State Land in Montana

Boating on the Yellowstone River, Paradise Valley, Montana Photo by Andy Austin

Last month, a new law was enacted requiring Conservation Licenses to access most state lands in Montana. This includes fishing access sites (FAS), wildlife management areas (WMA) and wildlife habitat protection areas. Montana State Parks do not require this license.

Previously, those who bought fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses were required to purchase Conservation Licenses, but those launching watercraft, hiking, biking, wildlife watching, etc., were not required to do so. Increased use of FASes and WMAs has led to increased maintenance costs, and the revenue generated through these licenses will help pay for the maintenance and conservation.

Waterfall near Big Timber Photo by Andy Austin

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation will receive $3.50 of the fee, which will go into a trust to help fund K-12 schools and other public institutions. The new Conservation License will now replace the State Lands Recreational Use License, formerly required to use Montana School Trust Lands. However, trappers, commercial recreators, outfitters and those hosting special events on State Trust Land will still need a Special Recreation Use License.

State Trust Lands are a big part of Montana’s economy. Nearly five million acres of working land are held in trust for the perpetual revenue from managed agricultural and grazing leases. This program supports the farming community while generating money for education and other public programs. In 2021, over $55 million was distributed to Montana’s schools.

Hyalite Reservoir, Bozeman, Montana Photo by Jonathan Finch

Purchasing a Conservation License is a small step to maintaining the quality of the natural resources we all enjoy. Licenses can be purchased online at Once you purchase your license, you can either print a copy and carry it with you or download the MyFWP App and have access electronically!

License fees are $8 for adult residents, $4 for residents ages 12-17, and Seniors 62+. Non-resident fees are $10 per person. Licenses are valid from March 1 through the end of February the following year. A valid driver’s license or photo ID is required to purchase a license, along with the last four digits of your social security number and other basic information.

FWP officials said that in this first year they will be educating and informing the public; however, beginning March 1, 2024, warnings will be issued for first offenses, but subsequent violations may be cited.

We Montanans thank you in advance for helping conserve our public lands.