The Montana Wildlife Federation will be watching out for the interests of hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts when the state Environmental Quality Council (EQC) holds its quarterly meeting this week in Helena.
EQC is the legislative interim committee that oversees the departments of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP); Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC); and Environmental Quality (DEQ). It conducts studies between legislative sessions and can recommend legislation to address specific issues. What happens at these meetings can have a big impact on the agenda during the 2019 Legislative Session, and MWF staff will be attending and monitoring the issues for the entire meeting.
The agenda for this week’s two-day meeting includes an update on the evaluation of the state parks program by FWP. State parks have been under scrutiny since last session, and several bills would have changed the oversight of state parks, including one that would have moved the program out of FWP.
EQC will also receive an update from FWP of Chronic Wasting Disease CWD), which was first detected in deer last year; and will review options for bills to address large dog training operations in upland game bird areas. Sage grouse conservation is also on the agenda as Montana continues to move forward with a plan to conserve the native upland game bird.
On the second day, EQC will hear from FWP on the review of its funding, including a review of hunting and fishing license fees. That is required every four years based on a bill passed in the 2015 Legislature that revamped and simplified Montana’s license fee structure.
The program to prevent aquatic invasive species is also on the agenda, as well as a report on the options for managing brucellosis in elk. The meeting finishes out with a review of potential management changes by FWP for grizzly bears.
The council, which includes appointed citizen members, will meet this week in room 172 of the Capitol. The meeting begins 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17 and 8 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 18. You can see the agenda for more information on specific topics.