Montana sportsmen praise Bullock’s veto of anti-public lands bill

May 1, 2015

Montana sportsmen are thanking Governor Steve Bullock for vetoing controversial legislation that would have paved the way to selling off public lands.

Bullock today rejected HB 496, sponsored by Rep. Kerry White (R-Bozeman). The bill would have created a task force to consider management of all federal lands in Montana, including Indian Reservations and Department of Defense lands along with national forests and grasslands. This task force would have been a first step toward selling public lands and closing off public access. In its original form, HB 496 was focused on the transfer of public lands to the state of Montana.

“This anti-public lands bill was a bad idea for Montana every step of the way, and we’re grateful to Governor Bullock for standing with Montanans against any scheme to ultimately close off our public lands,” said Joelle Selk, president of the Montana Bowhunters Association. “We join tens of thousands of Montanans in calling on our elected leaders to stop pushing out-of-state, astro-turf plans to weaken our outdoor heritage.”

The issue of transferring public lands has been contentious this legislative session, drawing roughly 500 people to the capitol for a rally on President’s Day to protest efforts lead by Rep. White and Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R-Thompson Falls) to implement the public land takeover agenda of the Utah-based American Lands Council.

“After the rallies, the petition, and countless opinion pieces in statewide newspapers all opposing transfer, it’s clear that Montanans have shut the door on this scheme,” says Dave Chadwick, executive director of Montana Wildlife Federation. “We thank the governor for listening to Montanans and vetoing the one and only transfer bill to sneak through the Legislature.”

Public lands contribute to an outdoor recreation economy that creates 64,000 direct jobs in Montana and pumps nearly $6 billion into the local economy while providing a stable tax base of over $500 million per year.

“Public land management is complex. It requires honest conversations and hard work from folks on the ground, like we have with our Citizen Advisory Committees & Resource Advisory Committees,” said John Sullivan, co-chair of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “For anyone to say that Montana’s public lands are only managed by D.C. bureaucrats is disingenuous. Local working groups spend countless hours collaborating with land managers to decide how to best manage public lands for all Americans. That’s truly democracy in action.”

“Montanan’s Bighorn Sheep live primarily on public land,” said Brian Solan, president of the Montana Wild Sheep Foundation. “We’re very pleased that Governor Bullock vetoed a poorly thought-out bill that could have put bighorns as well as our $6 billion outdoor economy at risk. It’s time to move beyond the rhetoric of transferring and selling public land, and work together to implement better management solutions. We’re ready to do that.”

Read the governor’s veto letter.
HB 496 Veto

MWF Recognizes Conservation Champions

Every year, the Montana Wildlife Federation takes time at our Annual Meeting to recognize the contributions of individuals who have done outstanding work on behalf of wildlife and conservation.   At our 2015 meeting, we recognized three leaders for their efforts.

Representative Tom Jacobson from Great Falls and Representative Jeff Wellborn from Dillion were jointly recognized as MWF’s Legislator(s) of the Year.

Hailing from House District 21, Representative Jacobson has been a tireless champion for wildlife, habitat, and public access since his election in 2012.  During the 2015 Legislative Session, Jacobson led the charge for public access, including MWF’s bill to keep open disputed public roads to public land.  Jacobson was also a tireless defender of science-based wildlife management and habitat protection.

Representative Wellborn represents House District 72 in Southwestern Montana.  During the 2014 Interim Session, Wellborn served on the Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) License and Funding Advisory Council.  In 2015, he introduced a bill (HB 140) to implement the group’s recommendations and shepherded those recommendations through the legislative process.  As a result of Wellborn’s hard work to build bipartisan support, Montana’s hunting and fishing licenses have been simplified dramatically while also putting FWP on a path to financial sustainability.  Wellborn has also been a reliable supporter of a number of other common-sense habitat protection and wildlife management bills.

Carol Fox of Helena was awarded the Les Pengelly Conservation Professional Award.  This award is given to a state, federal, or local conservation professional who provided the most significant conservation achievement in Montana for the previous year.

Fox retired in 2014 from a 30-year career as an environmental manager with the State of Montana.  Beginning in 2000, Fox led the Montana Natural Resource Damage Program, which used funds from legal settlements associated with mine cleanup to pay for habitat restoration and remediation.  Of her many accomplishments, Fox’s work in the Upper Clark Fork River basin was of particular significance to Montana’s hunters and anglers.  She worked with diverse local interests to direct funds at priority restoration needs, helping revive one of Montana’s most iconic rivers.

Phil Tawney Hunters Conservation Endowment

The Montana Wildlife Federation (MWF) and the Phil Tawney Hunters Conservation Endowment are accepting applications for the 2015 round of annual grants and scholarships.  In the last ten years, the Endowment has awarded more than $50,000 in scholarships and grants to further Montana’s hunting, wildlife and outdoor heritage.

Established in 1998, the Endowment honors the late Phil Tawney, a fourth generation Montanan, lifetime sportsman, and conservation leader.  Tawney was dedicated to protecting Montana’s fish and wildlife and their vulnerable habitats as he chased waterfowl in the Bitterroot Valley, elk in the Great Burn and Cinnabar Basin, and trout in the blue ribbon waters of the Big Hole River and Rock Creek.  The Endowment was created to continue his legacy by educating the public about habitat and wildlife and involving young people in hunting and conservation.

Project grants are available to 501(c)(3) groups to support one-year projects that involve young people in hunting and conservation, create healthy wildlife habitats, support public policy changes to conserve habitat, and promote hunting ethics, fair chase, and safety.  Projects typically range from $500 – $5,000.

Scholarships are awarded to Montana college students who are studying academic fields that relate to conservation, exhibit a commitment to public hunting ethics and fair chase, and support habitat conservation and wildlife protection.  The scholarships provide $1,000 to support any expenses related to the pursuit of a college degree.

For information about the application process visit or contact Mark Dostal at MWF at 406-458-0227 or The deadline for grant and scholarship applications is January 16, 2015 with awards to be announced by March 1, 2015.


2015 Tawney
Grant Application

2015 Tawney
Scholarship Application

Montana sportsmen support sage-grouse conservation

Nov. 19, 2014 – A new poll shows that Montana sportsmen and women want to protect greater sage-grouse habitat because protecting the sagebrush landscape will protect hunting opportunities and other uses of the public lands.

The findings released Wednesday by the National Wildlife Federation show that more than 90 percent of Montana hunters surveyed believe it’s important to protect the bird’s habitat. They were among a majority of hunters surveyed in 11 Western states who back plans to conserve important habitat to maintain state management of the greater sage-grouse and avoid the restrictions that would follow if it’s declared an endangered species.

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