Historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Package To Strengthen Montana

Legislation Includes Key Wins for Montana Workers, Communities, Wildlife & Habitat

MWF calls on Rosendale, Gianforte to Support Return of Tax Dollars to Rebuild State

Montana’s outdoor economy rides on 70,000 highway miles and 169,829 river miles within the state.  Hunters and anglers, small businesses and landowners have sought a return of our tax dollars through a federal infrastructure deal for a decade. Today, Montana Wildlife Federation is proud to thank Senator Jon Tester for delivering results. 

Today’s bipartisan and lopsided 69-30 vote will invest $2.82 billion to rebuild Montana roads and bridges, boosts Montana small towns through $1 billion for critical rural water projects, acknowledges Montana tribal leadership with $2.5 billion to complete all authorized Indian water rights settlements, and increases sixfold the state’s annual federal Abandoned Mine distribution, fueling jobs and improving habitat.

MWF calls on Representative Matt Rosendale to set aside politics and support Montana jobs, businesses, our outdoor economy, workers and families by supporting the bill as it goes the House of Representatives, and we call on Governor Greg Gianforte and all Montana elected officials to leverage the tools available to create jobs, strengthen community, wildlife and habitat resilience, address environmental injustices, and confront the drivers of climate change that are ravaging Montana’s fisheries, rivers, forests, ranches, communities and economy.

 

Contact: Frank Szollosi, Montana Wildlife Federation, frank@mtwf.org 406-417-9909

Victory for hunters, anglers, outdoor recreationalists and Montana’s outdoor economy

In a bipartisan win for public access, a win for working ranches, and a win for our outdoor recreation economy, the Montana Legislature largely defended conservation funding approved by nearly 58% of voters last fall in recently passing H.B. 701.  MWF encourages Governor Greg Gianforte to sign the bill and deliver historic funding to Montana’s Great Outdoors.  

Montana Wildlife Federation took the extraordinary step of endorsing the legalization and conservation funding ballot measures because deficiencies for our public natural resources and their enjoyment have been decades in the making and needed to be addressed. A 2019 report produced by Montana-based Headwaters Economics found numerous funding shortfalls to keep up with the growing demands on our state’s parks, ranches and farms, public trails and public wildlife. For example: 

  • Wildlife management and conservation needs an estimated $15 million annually to keep pace with a host of growing challenges, from emerging issues like Chronic Wasting Disease in big game, aquatic invasive species in our fisheries to longstanding conservation priorities that include restoring key wildlife habitat such as big game winter range. 
  • Working lands including private farms, ranches and timberlands have an unmet need of $12.4 million. The needs include conservation easements over lands slated for development. Easements keep these lands in working agriculture and timber production, while also ensuring they provide the open space to maintain wildlife habitat and public recreation on these important areas. 
  • State trails for multiple-use recreation have a $7.1 million need to address safety, erosion and access. Statewide nearly three quarters of Montanans use trails Funding is needed for maintenance and improvements. 
  • The Montana State Park system has an estimated $25.7 million maintenance backlog just to keep up with the demand on facilities. The backlog includes repairing and upgrading campgrounds, restrooms and other facilities, and boosting educational programs to meet the increased visitation. 

Many of MWF’s affiliates, Board Directors, and members across the state joined 29 other conservation groups in working with a bipartisan group of legislators to secure a projected $16 million per year by 2025 for conservation in Montana.

Radio Ads to Lawmakers: Listen to Voters and Restore Conservation Funds

Montana Wildlife Federation has launched a new radio ad campaign to push back on legislative attempts to divert revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana away from popular public access programs.

Two such bills are being heard in committee this week.  House Bill 670, sponsored by Rep. Skees, R-Kalispell, and House Bill 701, sponsored by Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, would each make significant changes to the successful ballot initiative law that legalized recreational marijuana last November.

And both contain fatal errors according to Frank Szollosi, Executive Director of Montana Wildlife Federation.

“HB 670 and 701 are dead on arrival because they leave out critical funds that voters intended to go toward public access, working farms and ranches, and our state parks and trails,” said Szollosi.  “It’s really very simple.  If lawmakers want to successfully rewrite the ballot initiative this session they need to take more direction from voters on where those revenues go.”

To make their point, Montana Wildlife Federation will air a new radio ad starting tomorrow on stations in Great Falls, Billings, Helena and the Flathead.

The radio ad features 5th generation rancher John Rumney, owner of Rumney Cattle Company, who used the Habitat Montana program in 2018 to place a conservation easement on nearly 4,000 acres of family ranchland.

In the ad, Rumney says boosting the Habitat Montana account as voters intended will benefit more ranchers and hunters and result in more public access.

“It’s time to listen to voters,” says Rumney. “Lawmakers in Helena should restore funds intended to help landowners and hunters find more common ground.”

The radio ads compliment a series of billboards that have been running throughout Helena since early March (photo attached).  

Those billboards direct lawmakers to the online campaign called SaveMyGreatOudoors where hundreds of images and personal testimonials discuss the growing need for more dedicated funding for conservation programs and public lands.  

Contact: Frank Szollosi, 406.417.9909

 

Photo by Kyle Mlynar.

Shell game with voter-approved conservation dollars

March 17, 2021 – Montana Wildlife Federation issued the following statement in response to Representative Hopkins’ (Missoula) legislation to siphon away investment in Montana’s $7 billion recreation economy and undercut ranching families.

“Now comes the shell game with voter-approved conservation dollars,” said Frank Szollosi, MWF executive director. “State politicians just extended the 67th Legislature to divvy up a huge windfall from the federal government, there’s just no sound fiscal rationale to contradict the will of Montana voters. It’s outrageous, actually. These accounts help keep families on their ranches into the future, increase hunter-angler access, and improve our overtaxed state parks.”

“Conservation dollars are economic development, because public lands, waters, wildlife and access are the cornerstone of our multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation economy and the 71,000-plus jobs it supports. Our Great Outdoors are critical to our competitive advantage in attracting businesses and jobs.”

MWF will be joining hunters, anglers, businessowners and landowners for a media event on the north steps of the Capitol at noon Thursday, March 18, to defend the will of Montana’s electorate and deliver a message for our public servants: do not pass.

 

Contact: Frank Szollosi 406-417-9909

Montana Wildlife Federation Objects to Insurrections at Capitols

The last week has been a challenging time for our entire nation. The deadly, unprecedented attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob was totally unacceptable and a direct assault on our Constitution and values as Americans. And now law enforcement is reporting credible threats that more violence could be coming, including here in Montana. This must stop, immediately. This is not who we are.

For eight decades, MWF has engaged in vigorous public engagement in the democratic process.  We were founded when a handful of average Montanans decided to stand up to the Robber Barons who pulled the strings at the State Capitol – and for 85 years we’ve fought special interests to protect the right of every Montanan to enjoy our outdoors and natural heritage.

We have never been shy about disagreements or leading peaceful protests. We know that fights in our Republic are settled by vigorous but peaceful debate, not violence, nor even the threat of violence. Armed intimidation of lawmakers is contrary to the values of our state, our citizens and our community.  Remember, just a few years ago, MWF co-led a thousand Montanans to peacefully and legally rally in our Capitol – without a single act of violence or vandalism. We support free and fair elections, and the results of those elections, regardless of partisanship. The election of 2020 is no different: some candidates won, some lost, and there has been no evidence whatsoever of widespread irregularities in Montana nor across the country. We at MWF pride ourselves at reaching across the aisle to both Republicans and Democrats in Helena and Washington to advance our mission in support of wildlife, habitat and access. We fervently believe that conservation brings people together. The safety of law enforcement, journalists, local, state and federal employees, lawmakers and their staff and of course, the public, should never be in jeopardy as they carry out the People’s business.

During this trying time – and whatever times are ahead – know that MWF will continue to support our country, the rights enshrined in our Constitution, and the right and responsibility of all Montanans to participate in the democratic process.

 

Sincerely,

The MWF Board of Directors

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Alec Underwood

Federal Conservation Campaigns Director

Alec is responsible for developing and implementing MWF’s federal conservation advocacy and policy campaigns to protect Montana’s fish and wildlife. He spends most of his free time hunting big game and fly fishing Montana’s cherished trout rivers. He also enjoys backpacking, skiing, photography, and woodworking. 

alec@mtwf.org