Archive for Access
When a bill is tabled in committee, it is generally understood that the bill isn’t going to survive past that point. However, sometimes dedicated lawmakers refuse to watch a bill that is good for Montana die.
Several weeks ago, a piece of bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Representative Ellie Hill-D and Representative Krayton Kerns-R was heard in committee. This commonsense legislation would have legalized corner crossings and returned 887,000 acres of public land to Montanans. The hearing took a surprising turn when Rep. Kerns unexpectedly voted against his own bill, tabling it on party lines.
Responding to overwhelming public support for land access, Rep. Hill motioned to blast the bill out of committee and for a vote of the body on the House floor today. The House gallery was a sea of hunter orange worn by more than 300 sportsmen from around the state who turned out to support public land.
Today, Republican legislators chose to side with out of state interests instead of Montanans, some of whom made significant campaign contributions to the Majority party. Being a lawmaker means protecting the Montana we love, and access to public land and water for our families first, not out-of-state special interests.
This blog post was written by Cassie Hintz, MDLCC Legislative Assistant.
Montana’s vast and beautiful public lands are a main attraction for Montanans and the folks around the world who visit our state. It is vital that we keep these areas pristine and accessible, and it is clear why this issue is important to so many people.
Unfortunately, there are many pockets of public land that are either landlocked within private land, or only accessible at specific and often difficult to navigate points.
In current law, the practice of “corner crossing” private land to get from public land to public land is illegal. House Bill 235 has been introduced in an attempt to address this problem and open land that belongs to the public up to the public. It legitimizes corner crossing so long as they don’t cause physical harm to the private property at the intersection or disturb the “quiet enjoyment or use of the landowner’s property.”
The bill is supported by groups such as the Montana Wildlife Federation and Montana Sportsmen Alliance. If passed, it could open up to 1.3 million acres of public land for recreating. Land access is a top priority in Montana, and the corner crossing issue opens up other questions for debate, such as ownership of airspace above private property.
Sponsored by Representative Ellie Hill-D and Co-Sponsored by Representative Krayton Kerns-R, HB235 is truly an example of bipartisan teamwork being used to protect the Montana we love by protecting access to our public lands and waters.
This blog post was written by Cassie Hintz, MDLCC Legislative Assistant
If it wasn’t clear that the Republicans in the Montanan Legislature weren’t listening to Montanans before, it because crystal clear today when they launched a back-door assault on stream access.
Republicans attempted to amend Sen. Blewett’s “Freedom to Float” bill to totally destroy the intention of the bill and instead include provisions from their stream access restricting “ditch bill.” Sen. Blewett’s bill expanded the rights of Montanans recreating on our rivers, lakes and streams. The “ditch bill” sought to restrict access of hundreds of miles of rivers and streams.
This amendment came just one day after the committee tabled the “ditch bill.”
Fortunately, the GOP amendments to the Blewett’s bill failed. However, Sen. Ripley has vowed to continue to push the bill forward. He will likely attempt to push for a full vote in the Senate later this week.
The Ditch Bill has been strongly opposed by Montanans every step of its trip through the legislature. In fact, when the bill received its hearing in the Senate more than 300 people from all across the state showed up to oppose the bill. This was by far the largest hearing of the entire legislative session.
In a rare occurrence this legislative session, the Montana GOP actually seemed to listen to the voices of Montanans telling them that their extreme agenda does not represent the will of Montanans.
Today, the Senate Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Committee likely killed the so-called “ditch bill.” This bill would have restricted the rights of Montanans to access hundreds of miles of public waterways in the state. It would have done this by redefining what is a ditch in the state.
The bill was pushed by wealthy out-of-state landowners.
During the hearing on the bill earlier this month, Republicans met fierce opposition to the bill by more than 300 sportsmen from all over the state who descended on the Capitol to have their voices heard.
During today’s executive action session, members of the committee attempted to amend 90% of the bill out so that it wasn’t as egregious. However, Republicans were quickly informed that they were not legally allowed to make such a substantial change to the bill, and instead would have to have a new bill drafted. The committee members decided to table this bill, likely killing it.
There is still talk that Republicans may try to have a replacement bill drafted with their desired amendments, however with the deadline for most bills to be drafted already passed and only a few days left in this legislative session, the likelihood of this bill making it through the session is slim.
Democrats in the House, today killed a Republican proposal that sought to burden sportsmen with funding measures to control the certain animal populations in the state.
The bill would have charged hunters and fishermen an additional fee to go towards managing the populations of these animals. The bill failed on a 22-78 vote.
This bill is part of a series of measures the GOP has pushed that seeks to make it more difficult for Montana sportsmen to use our public lands for hunting, fishing and recreating. The most notable of these proposals is the so-called “Ditch Bill,” (HB 309).
HB 309 would have restricted Montana sportsmen’s access to certain public waterways. It has been largely supported by wealthy out-of-state landowners. During a hearing a few weeks ago, more than 300 sportsmen from all over the state came to the Capitol to oppose the Republican proposal.
Republicans clearly are seeking to undermine the Montana public’s access to our public lands. It would be refreshing if instead of restricting the rights of Montana sportsmen, they worked to improve those rights.