Bill, Study Will Help Protect FWP Wildlife Location Data

Montana’s longstanding tradition of fair-chase, ethical hunting had another boost this week as a pair of bills to address the issue of agency wildlife location data advanced.

SB 349 (Sen. Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena) passed the House and is heading to the governor for his signature. The bill makes it illegal to use Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife location data to hunt or harass wildlife. It’s an important step because FWP biologists need to be able to collect specific data to understand wildlife’s use of habitat, migration routes and other steps. At the same time, hunters and others shouldn’t be able to use that data for a grossly unfair advantage, or to harass wildlife.

But the bill doesn’t give the agency any ability to deny that data to the public. Montana has strong public interest laws protecting the public’s right to public information. Yet other states have given their wildlife agencies the ability to deny some information. That’s where SJ 30 (Sen. Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena) comes in.

The resolution calls for an interim study to look at FWP wildlife location data, to help determine under what circumstances or whether the agency can deny someone that information. It’s an important step to take a solid look at this issue, and potentially come up with legislation if needed to bring a bill to give the agency the ability to protect some of its data.

MWF supported both of these bills as needed measures to keep Montana at the forefront of ethical, fair chase hunting.