Week 1 of the 2017 Legislature.
We’re off and running at the 2017 Legislature, with several bill hearings last week that affected wildlife and habitat.
“Clean Up” Bills
Last week was taken up mostly by clean up bills proposed by Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP). They included removing the ambiguous term “civet cats” from state law as a predatory animal. There were also bills affecting private fish pond stocking, a bill to continue to allow limited bison permits for Native American tribes, and a bill to allow a pilot program for electronic hunting tags for big game, and a bill to clarify eligible uses of livestock loss prevention funds. MWF staff testified on all of these bills.
Endangered Species / Livestock Loss
Included in the session, we have the main bill to address livestock-loss prevention, SB 73, sponsored by Sen. Pat Connell, R-Hamilton. The bill would lift the sunset on the livestock-loss program and continue to allow funding to be used for prevention work. This important program helps with programs such as livestock carcass removal, fencing of attractants, and range riders to prevent conflicts with grizzly bears and wolves. It is tangible, on-the-ground conservation that benefits wildlife and people, and it brings together livestock producers and conservationists. MWF strongly supports these proactive measures and will be there to support the bill.
Wildlife-livestock conflicts continue to be a contentious topic.
Public Land Takeover
Bill drafts have been requested on several proposals that appear to promote the idea of a state takeover of federal lands. Although specific bill language is not yet available, MWF is monitoring the issue closely. We are also working with a coalition of conservation and outdoor groups to plan a rally on January 30 in support of public lands. Mark your calendars and watch for more information.
Public lands remain in the crosshairs.
On The Horizon
On Tuesday, the House Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Committee will hear HB 96, sponsored by Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman. This bill would extend to nonresident landowners a program that provides resident landowners with one non-transferable permit for immediate family or designee in return for allowing public hunters chosen by FWP. This bill was promoted by the collaborative Private Land / Public Wildlife Committee.
Other bills for the week include HB 150, sponsored by Kerry White, R-Bozeman, which would clarify the residency requirement for armed forces members; HB 164, Kelly Flynn, R-Townsend, which would revise the distribution of base hunting license funds; HB 157, Forrest Mandeville, which would remove the restriction on owning domestically bred foxes; HB 128, Ray Shaw, R-Sheridan, revising the waiting period for bighorn sheep licenses; and HB 97, Denley Loge, R-St. Regis, which would increase the payment cap for Block Management participants.
MWF’s position on key bills is determined by our Legislative Committee, a group of volunteers which meets every Monday night. For more information on any issues or to provide your feedback on specific proposals, contact Nick Gevock at [email protected] or 406-458-0227 ex 108.
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].