The 2019 Legislature is now in full swing and with it this week a bad bill for our public wildlife and the people’s ability to have a say in how it’s managed was heard in front of the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks committee on Tuesday.
HB 161, sponsored by Rep. Ron Tschida, R-Lolo, would have limited the input that the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department would be able to consider. In essence, the public would be able to comment, but the agency & the commission wouldn’t be able to consider that input.
The bill had more than 40 opponents. They include hunters, anglers, past directors of state wildlife agencies, wildlife advocates and many more. Those opponents spoke about how much Montanans value abundant wildlife and state parks, but most importantly, they value their ability to be partners in how those resources are managed. The Montana Sporting Coalition, which is made up of more than a dozen hunting and angling groups gave testimony for MWF as well as our partners in the coalition and we sent in this letter to show our solidarity against the bill. A committee vote is expected next week and we are hopeful that the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks committee makes the correct decision and tables this bill.
Other bills with hearings this week as well were HB 29 which came out of the Environmental Quality Council the effects the regulations for training bird hunting dogs. It was meant to clean up a confusing law that made it against the law for everyone who runs dogs on public lands, because of the threat to nesting game birds. The law was the result of good work during the interim study and passed unanimously out of the House FWP committee.
In addition, this week the House FWP committee heard a bill to allow hunters to donate their refund from special permits back to the Block Management program (HB 239), and a bill to clarify the process for obtaining a fish pond license (HB 205). MWF supported both.
Bills are starting to show up on wildlife and public lands issues in force as the engine of the legislature starts to get up to full speed. Check our Bill Tracker on the MWF homepage. For more frequent updates, join our Legislative Action Team.