General Membership Meeting 6/23/15

23-05-2015

First order of business is that we have scheduled a general membership meeting for Tuesday June 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Region 3 building, 1400 S. 19th Ave, Bozeman.

 

Second order of business is to remind you that antelope and B licenses (elk and deer) are due by June 1.

 

And thirdly, the legislative activity in Helena is over for the next two years. This is a quick summary of the bills that were of interest to me.

May 21, 2015

Dear Headwaters Sportsman Association members and friends,

H.B. 140 passed and increased license fees for all of us. It will increase funding for FW&P by $4.7 million. It was clear in Helena that almost no constituent group, including resident sportsmen, is completely happy with some of the management decision made during the past few years by top FW&Ps managers, including the Director and Governor. However, I strongly supported this bill because in my opinion the FW&P department is the strongest ally for the resident nonguided, nonleasing, DIY hunters and anglers. Also the biologists, staff and field officers of the Department are extremely competent and deserve our support. There were some key Republicans that helped get HB 140 passed.

HB 403 tried to eliminate all habitat and access funding in Habitat Montana, Upland Game Bird, Migratory Game Bird and Fishing Access Site programs. The entire sporting community including us fought back and restored all the funding. There are some legislators that don’t want any expansion of public land in Montana even if it is habitat for wildlife or increased access for resident DIY hunters and anglers. They oppose this expansion even if it is completely paid for by hunters and anglers. They did win the battle that none of the access and habitat money can be used for outright purchase of property, even if it is from a willing seller. Money can be used only for easements, not purchase.

SB 261 provides $12 million to fund habitat conservation and fund management of sage grouse recovery. This is a good bill for the grouse and other wildlife in sage grouse habitat like mule deer. Also the bill to stop sage grouse hunting (SB 247) was defeated. I testified against it in person.

Early in the session I wrote an essay about what might happen to hunting and fishing opportunities for resident DIY anglers and hunters if federal land was transferred to the state. All the scenarios currently being discussed would reduce our hunting and fishing opportunities, in my opinion. Could there be a transfer system that could increase hunting and fishing opportunities? Maybe. But none of the proposals being advocated do so. I think sportsmen played a major role in stopping all attempts to further the land transfer agenda in Montana. It should be noted that federal land transfer is still alive and well in Wash D.C.

A new fencing bill HB 557 was passed this session. The first version eliminated the height requirement, allowing high fenced wildlife enclosures and exclosures. Kurt Alt did the heavy lifting on this bill for us and made certain a maximum height of 48 inches was put back in the law.

One issue that generated a great deal of debate was the late season cow elk bill SB 245. The major problem with this bill is almost no one involved with the public debate understood the current state of affairs about post season hunts. It is fairly complex, but it does work in some areas like the Madison valley where we have effectively managed the elk herd numbers with the current set of management tools. SB 245 was not necessary.

Another major problem with SB 245 and many other bills introduced in the legislature is the attempt to take away power from the FW&P Commissioners. We have an open, public process to set fishing and hunting regulations. It involves open meetings in front of the Commissioners. Resident sportsmen are actively involved with this process, as are landowners and their associated outfitters. However, some groups think that they can produce decisions to their liking in the legislature easier than they can in front of the Commissioners, so they try to pass laws to get more control over wildlife. This is a huge theme that is at play daily in Helena. In this case SB 245 passed both the House and the Senate and the Governor vetoed it.

Most of my interaction with legislators was through email. It seemed to work quite well and saved on gas and travel time. However, testifying in Helena is still very important and resident hunters and anglers were represented well by a hand full of dedicated advocates. It was a pleasure working with my fellow sportsman legislative “liaisons.”

Shannon Taylor, Secretary
Headwaters Sportsman Association
Svtaylor55@gmail.com