State legislative session continues.
Wildlife bills kept MWF and our conservation partners busy last week as legislators work to pass bills before the upcoming transmittal deadline to get general bills to the other chamber of the Legislature.
Public roads bill hits roadblock
The main public access bill of the session, HB 295, faced a setback when it died 10-9 in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would raise the fine for gating a county road from the current $10 per day to up to $500 per day. It was carefully crafted for over a year, and drew the support of not only sportsmen groups but also the Montana Association of Counties. MWF is working to move the bill forward despite this setback. Stay tuned for how you can take action!
Sportsmen speak up against misguided Constitutional rewrite
MWF and numerous other sportsmen’s groups turned out to oppose SB 236, a referendum that would rewrite the Constitution’s language on hunting, fishing and trapping. The language in the proposed amendment would open up FWP to endless lawsuits, make it impossible to enforce wildlife protection laws, and otherwise hamper management of fish and wildlife. Efforts to work with the bill’s sponsor to draft practical language have been rebuffed. MWF was joined by numerous other opponents including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Trout Unlimited, and the Wild Sheep Foundation.
Unnecessary changes to FWP shooting range funding
MWF opposed HB 151, which would have mandated that FWP spend $350,000 per year on shooting range grants and criminalized state employees if the money isn’t spent. We strongly support shooting range funding, but this bill was unnecessary – every shooting range grant in the past two years has been funded – and it would have jeopardized $20 million in federal Pittman-Robertson funds by diverting license dollars away from wildlife management.
State Parks management changes
HB 324 would change the administration of the state parks, giving the duty to hire the director to the State Parks Board and making some other key changes. MWF opposed this bill because it comes with a $2 million price tag and could have implications for hunter/angler federal excise taxes. The bill passed out of the House FWP committee and is moving forward.
This week remains busy as we approach the transmittal deadline. We will join a diverse coalition of other conservation groups in opposing a bill that would call for the release of all wilderness study areas (HJ 9). Other bills coming up include SB 284, affecting sage-grouse; SB 262, on public road access; and SB 264, revising reporting requirements for outfitters.
For live updates on the current status of any bill, visit the MWF Bill Tracker at montanawildlife.org/billtracker.
Nick Gevock is Montana Wildlife Federation’s Conservation Director. You can reach him at [email protected] or 406-458-0227 ex 108.