Archive for Fish, Wildlife & Parks

On Friday, we told you about the GOP proposal that would make it harder for the state to acquire new public lands for fishing, hunting, camping and other recreation. This bill would establish a policy that would require the state to sell off hunting, fishing or recreation land, before they are able to purchase additional public lands.

Today though, Democrats were successful in their efforts to stop the bill. The bill failed by a 48-50 vote on third reading.

The failure of this bill, is a success for all Montanans, especially sportsmen throughout the state.

The bill is not officially dead yet though. Republicans have 24 hours to reconsider their actions. However, assuming this does not happen, this bill is likely dead.

Today, the Republican majority in the House gave initial approval to SB303, a bill that would restrict the state’s ability to acquire new public land for hunting, fishing and recreation land.

Under this bill, before the state could purchase  new public lands, they would be required to receive approval of the Board of Land Commissioners. In addition, the purchase must not result in any net gain of land in the state’s possession. This means, that the state would be required to get rid of land before it could purchase new land.

This bill would open the door to wealth, out-of-state landowners to come in and purchase pristine Montana land and lock the public out.

In addition, landowners who allow the public to access their land often seek to sell this land very cheap to the state upon their death in order to ensure their land remains accessible to the public. The state would not be allowed to purchase this land, regardless of how cheap it is, without first disposing of other land they own.

The bill faced bipartisan opposition, however it still passed by a vote of 51-49. It will face a final vote in the House when the legislature reconvenes on Monday.

Apparently the majority of the Republican House believes the state already has enough hunting, fishing and camping space.

As usual, Rep. Wagner had a “unique” take on the issue.

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.

Rep. HarrisLast November, Montanans voted to endorse a ballot measure that would end the process of reserving hunting licenses for out of state outfitters. The measure was passed, primarily on the grounds that it gave special status to out of state businessmen at the expense of Montanans.

Today, Rep. Bill Harris, of Mosby, introduced a bill to overturn the clearly stated will of Montanans. However, during the hearing on his bill, Harris announced that he would have the bill tabled after it had it’s hearing. This bizarre move will waste several thousand dollars in taxpayer money for absolutely no purpose. In addition, Republicans this year have been criticized for wasting time on frivolous bills, today’s actions by Rep. Harris will not help them shake that notion.

This isn’t the first time this session that Republicans have attempted to overturn the clear will of the Montana voters. Other voter approved measures the Republicans are seeking to overturn this year include the medical marijuana law and the ban on cyanide heap leach mining.

Republicans in the legislature should stop wasting time on bills that seek to overturn the will of Montanans and waste valuable time in the legislature, and instead follow the Democratic lead and focus on bringing jobs to the state and moving the economy forward.

More than 300 hundred Montanans came to the Capitol today to stand up for their right to access our streams, rivers and lakes. As we’ve reported recently, the Republican Party has restarted their assault on Montana’s rights to access our public water.

Rep. Welborn’s HB 309 seeks to rewrite the rules to accessing ditches in the state. If the bill is written into law, Montanans who enjoy fishing, floating and recreating on these waters would be shut out of hundreds of bodies of water in the state.

Today, the GOP received a clear message from Montanans; they value their right to access these streams and do not appreciate these rights being infringed.

Before the hearing, Sen. Kendall Van Dyk of Billings and several stream access activists lead a rally to excited the hundreds of Montanans who came to oppose the bill. During the hearing, Sen. Van Dyk spoke clearly for all in attendance when he said, “In Montana, access isn’t for sale.”

The committee will likely take executive action on the bill in the coming days.

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