Baldwin v. Fish & Game Comm'n of Montana,
436 U.S. 371 (1978)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Baldwin v. Fish & Game Comm'n of Montana, 436 U.S. 371 (1978)

Baldwin v. Fish and Game Commission of Montana

No. 76-1150

Argued October 5, 1977

Decided May 23, 1978

436 U.S. 371


Appellants brought this action for declaratory and other relief claiming that the Montana statutory elk hunting license scheme, which imposes substantially higher (at least 7 1/2 times) license fees on nonresidents of the State than on residents, and which requires nonresidents (but not residents) to purchase a "combination" license in order to be able to obtain a single elk, denies nonresidents their constitutional rights guaranteed by the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Art. IV, § 2, and by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A three-judge District Court denied all relief to appellants.


1. Access by nonresidents to recreational big game hunting in Montana does not fall within the category of rights protected by the Privileges and Immunities Clause. Only with respect to those "privileges" and "immunities" bearing upon the vitality of the Nation as a single entity must a State treat all citizens, resident and nonresident, equally, and here equality in access to Montana elk is not basic to the maintenance or wellbeing of the Union. Pp. 436 U. S. 378-388.

2. The statutory scheme is an economic means not unreasonably related to the preservation of a finite resource, elk, and a substantial regulatory interest of that State, and hence does not violate the Equal Protection Clause. In view of the fact that residents contribute to the costs of maintaining the elk hunting program, the great increase in nonresident hunters in recent years, the limit in the elk supply, and the difficulties in supervising hunting practices, it cannot be said that either the license fee differentials or the required combination license for nonresidents is irrational. Pp. 436 U. S. 388-391.

417 F.Supp. 1005, affirmed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 436 U. S. 392. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which WHITE and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 436 U. S. 394.

Page 436 U. S. 372

Primary Holding

The Privileges and Immunities Clause does not prohibit a discriminatory law on recreational activity.


Obtaining an elk-hunting license in Montana cost at least seven and a half times as much for non-residents as it did for residents. Non-residents also were required to obtain a combination license to get a single elk, while residents did not have this requirement. Non-resident hunters sued to enjoin the state from enforcing the hunting license laws and also requested damages for the licensing fees that they had paid. The trial court found that the Privileges and Immunities Clause did not support their claim.



  • Harry Andrew Blackmun (Author)
  • Warren Earl Burger
  • Potter Stewart
  • Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr.
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist
  • John Paul Stevens

The Privileges and Immunities Clause is limited to areas that affect the vitality of the United States as a single entity. Equal treatment of residents and non-residents is not required in other areas, such as recreational hunting. The well-being of the nation does not require granting equal access to elk, and the livelihood of the non-residents is not undermined.


  • Warren Earl Burger (Author)


  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr. (Author)
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Thurgood Marshall

Case Commentary

Fundamental rights cannot be considered to extend to recreational activities that have no impact on the political, social, or economic well-being of non-residents. Courts long have had a narrow understanding of the Privileges and Immunities Clause and the rights that it protects.

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