Sunday, February 12, 2017

In my heart there was a kind of fighting, that would not let me sleep

Legislative Update Feb. 11, 2017

Thank you fellow literary lovers, who appreciated and replied to the last legislative update with additionally applicable Shakespearean quotes. You put a huge smile on my face. :)

Conservation - "Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting, that would not let me sleep."

Next update - Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war! Quite appropriate for the details of Sen. Jennifer Fielder's attempt on our Constitution and Rep. Kerry White's attempt to carve up Fish, Wildlife & Parks by removing the "Parks" from FWP, sending our Parks to Commerce! That weighty piracy is over 150 pages already.

Thanks to the public's efforts HB 96 did not pass after it was not restored to its original form, though the sponsor, Rep. Zach Brown tried to remove Rep. Flynn's amendment. The final vote was aye 48 to no 52. Please make time to thank the legislators who voted against this bill, they need to hear our thanks, not just our comments, especially the 12 Republicans who did not make this a partisan issue - it was a Montana issue.

Considering the politics surrounding this bill, I would like to make a correction of a statement I heard during the hearing. Rep. Redfield incorrectly directed Representatives to look at their email comments, that the opposing HB 96 comments were not from landowners, but sportsmen. Yes, emails in opposition were from sportsmen and women from across Montana, but those hunters/anglers that are also landowners correctly identified themselves as FWP license holders, voicing concern about our hunting heritage and Montana's resource ethics. These hunters/anglers did not necessarily identify themselves as private landowners, because this issue should not have been about the "haves versus the have nots". I know a number of landowners that sent in comments of opposition, including Joe Perry, who owns thousands and leases more acreage in north Montana, who also happened to be on the PLPW council. Rep. Redfield's statement is part of the polarizing problem, with artificial boxes and labels, not part of the solution.

Ooops, there were a few mistakes on the block email addresses I received. I have double checked them now. For those of you who saved the emails, please make sure to adjust your lists.

House of Representatives:
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Now here's something we can support...

Support - HB 295, is being heard in the House Judiciary Committee. To some, the penalty for breaking the law is so small, it is meaningless, like fining a billionaire $10 a day for gating off public access. This bill would increase the current fine, for failure to remove the encroachment, of $10 a day up to $500 a day. Now that may make some think twice about illegally cutting off access.
There are some who intentionally and illegally put up obstructions on public roads, to our public lands, to privatize them. 
Part of my conservation work involves access and I have personally documented a number of cases, contacting authorities of illegal signs, gates, obstructions, to get access restored. This is a growing problem in Montana.

A recent example of a locked, illegal gate (for about 30 years) is that of the Hughes Creek Road in Ravalli County. Generally the cost to restore access is borne by  individuals, hunting/angling groups and organizations like Public Lands/Water Access Association (contributions). Sometimes it is borne by the Montana taxpayers, as in the Tenderfoot Road case, which under Attorney General Bullock, began legal actions to restore access.

Outdoor recreation and tourism is one of the largest economic drivers in Montana, yet Montana leads the other western states with almost 2 million acres of public lands not accessible, some of which is illegal.

Please support HB 295 (Representative email addresses below)

Support - HB 290, currently in the House, Business and Labor committee. We need better commercial Outfitter reporting laws, not less. At this time, the Board of Outfitters does not have their own investigators/enforcers for their operational plans and records. Basically, they have been unregulated since they dropped the Memorandum of Understanding with FWP Enforcement in 2010 and stopped paying FWP (used to be $60,000, I have the MOU, Outfitting didn't supply my information request, I had to get it from FWP). It was years that the Board of Outfitting would not supply the data to FWP for the Private lands leased to outfitters map and the last year's map produced, 2015, the data was so questionable that FWP put a disclaimer on the map: "FWP assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of the outfitter data (townships, ranges, sections) provided by the MBO (Montana Board of Outfitters). The MBO is the sole steward of outfitter data. Questions related to outfitter data depicted on this map should be directed to the MBO ."

In my 6 year FWP Game Warden Citation research, county dismissals of Outfitter citations is a whopping 43.29%. We have a serious problem here that involves our public trust resources.

This HB 290 requires the cooperation with state agencies,  annual reports that include increased information, including harvest data so that resources are accounted for, whether it is on public or private land, the name and automated licensing system number for each client. Not too much to ask for.

Please email the House Representatives in support of HB 290. (addresses below)

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Senate email addresses,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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