Wild Week

The Legislature moves forward. 

Last week was a short one for the Montana Legislature, with only the House in session after the Senate adjourned February 24. The House had very few committee hearings, but the floor sessions contained several wildlife- and habitat-related measures.

Roadblocked Bill
The Montana Wildlife Federation crafted and pushed for HB 295, which would have increased the fine for gating an established county road from the current $10 per day to up to $500 per day. The bill was tabled earlier in the session in the House Judiciary committee in a 10-9 vote. But sponsor Rep. Tom Jacobson worked to blast it Monday onto the House floor, which would have triggered a debate the next day. The motion failed in a 48-51 vote.

Wilderness Study Area Releases
MWF and our conservation partners also worked to defeat HJ 9, which would release hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest lands in Montana for future wilderness designation consideration. More than 70 people attended the hearing to oppose the measure, but it passed out of committee and went to the floor. It passed 56-44 and goes on to the Senate.

Montana Wildlife Federation, Montana Legislature 2017                                                                                                                                                 WSAs remain at risk.

Grizzly Delisting
Another resolution calling for Congress to go around the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and take grizzly bears throughout Montana off the Endangered Species Act passed last week. HJ 15 passed the House 63-37 in a bipartisan vote. MWF testified against the bill and will continue to oppose it. Although we supported delisting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly population, we believe it should go through the correct process and be limited to that population.

Public Lands Day
On a positive note, the House passed HB 491 to designate March 1 as Public Lands Day in a 52-48 vote. The measure is one that brings Montanans together to honor our public lands and everything they contribute to our state.

Looking Ahead
Following the four-day transmittal break, MWF will be busy again working on FWP’s budget. We will also have several hearings next week as bills that have passed one chamber move forward in the other chamber of the Legislature.

As always, check the Montana Wildlife Federation bill tracker at montanawildlife.org for the most up-to-date information on bills and where they’re at in the process. For questions, contact MWF conservation director Nick Gevock at [email protected] or by calling 458-0227 ext. 108.