Habitat Montana is so important for Montanans. The program has worked over the past three decades to conserve vital big game winter range and habitat for other wildlife. It has provided a tool for farmers and ranchers to secure a strong financial future. And it has provided access for hunters to these lands, as well as adjoining public lands that offer world-class hunting opportunities. In total, Habitat Montana has helped protect and open access to more than 880,000 acres across the state.
This month Gov. Bullock vetoed a bill that would have seriously threatened Habitat Montana’s future. HB 265, sponsored by Rep. Kerry White, R-Bozeman, would have required state Land Board approval for conservation easements on private lands under Habitat Montana. We saw the problems that can cause last year when the Land Board tried to block the Horse Creek Complex easement near Wibaux after it had been worked out for nearly two years.
This quality project permanently protected 15,000 of a working family cattle ranch from development. And it permanently opened a total of nearly 20,000 acres of private and public land to public hunting for mule deer, antelope and game birds. It was a great example of exactly how Habitat Montana is supposed to work. Now it will continue to do so.
Members of the Montana Sporting Coalition were deeply appreciative of the veto. We sent this letter to Gov. Bullock thanking him for the veto and expressing our continued strong support for Habitat Montana. MWF is also very thankful to our conservation partners in the coalition who stood up with a strong, unified voice to express our opposition to HB 265. We are hopeful that in the future the Legislature listens and doesn’t pass measures that would threaten the future of this important program for wildlife, landowners, and hunters.