Legislature Week 4

Fighting for Fair Chase and Simplifying Hunting Licenses

Montana has always been at the forefront of ethical, fair chase hunting and fishing. We’ve led the way to set the standard that other states strive for, and this week we heard a bill that would continue that legacy.

SB 127, sponsored by Sen. Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena, would bar the sale of coordinates about specific game animals, a trend we’ve seen in other states that runs completely counter to our sporting tradition of fair chase hunting. It would help Montana get ahead of this trend and maintain our hunting heritage. MWF Central Field Representative Marcus Strange and board member James Wyatt testified in support of the bill. To support the bill, please sign our petition.

Wolf Licensing

HB 280, would have added a free wolf license onto the sportsman’s with bear license. That would have depleted the wolf management account. However, a proposed amendment would make the wolf license an option for $10. MWF supports having ethical hunters in the field and will support the bill with the amendment to ensure that the wolf management account is kept intact so Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks can continue wolf monitoring and management.

Weed Management

MWF also supported HB 142, sponsored by Rep. Joshua Kassmier, R-Fort Benton. This bill would help create integrated weed management plans that take a long-term view on how to manage weed infestations, helping boost the up to $2 million of sportsmen dollars invested yearly through the WHIP act that passed last session to help improve wildlife habitat on public and private land.

Other Bills Moving Forward

Numerous bills affecting licensing and other aspects of management and funding continue to move forward through the Legislature.

HB 239, sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Marler, D-Missoula, would allow hunters to donate to the Block Management program any refunds from game drawings. The bill was amended to not kick in until 2022 when FWP projects having its new automated licensing system running. It passed out of the House FWP committee and moves to the full House.

HB 205, sponsored by Rep. Ray Shaw, R-Sheridan, is a good bill that updates the requirement for private fish pond licenses. It passed the House FWP committee.

The Senate Fish and Game committee this week passed SB 79, Sen. Steve Hinebauch, which clarified how hunters applying as a party are awarded bonus points, and SB 144, Sen. Tom Jacobson, which moved the application date for non-resident big game combination licenses back to April 1 to give people more time to apply. MWF supported those bills.

Looking Ahead

Next week will be another very busy one at the Legislature, with bills allowing crossbows during the archery season for some hunters coming, bills affecting the licenses for military members and more.

For the latest updates on all bills affecting wildlife, habitat and our sporting heritage, check the MWF Bill Tracker. For more frequent and thorough updates, join our Legislative Action Team.

Nick Gevock

MWF Conservation Director