Sunday, February 5, 2017

Legislative Alert Once More Into the Breach, Dear Friends, Once More

While Shakespeare didn't have to deal with our Montana Legislature every two years, his sentiment is certainly applicable - "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more."

This is a quickie general newsletter dealing with legislative issues.

On the Federal level, great news, due to the massive outpouring of disgust from the public, Rep. Jason Chaffetz privatizing Federal Public Lands bill H.R. 621 was killed by the sponsor. This was his 3rd legislative attempt to bring this to Congress, variations occurring in 2013 & 2015.


Like the info commercials... But wait, there's more...
 Rep. Chaffetz also has H.R. 622 that would endanger the public, our resources and our Federal employees being stewards of our public lands. H.R. 622 seeks
"To terminate the law
enforcement functions of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and to provide block grants to States for the enforcement of Federal law on Federal land under the jurisdiction of these agencies, and for other purposes."

Ben Long has a good article -  Bill to Cut Forest Service and BLM Enforcement is a Poacher’s Dream, Sportsman’s Nightmare

Please contact your Federal Legislators and get Chaffetz H.R. 622
  killed as well.

H.R.861 was just introduced on the 3rd - To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency
The text is not available yet, but I think the title speaks for itself.

Federal public lands antagonist, Sen. Jennifer Fielder, is at it again. She has a
constitutional amendment referendum that seeks to bypass the Governor being able to veto her attempts.
LC2314 Constitutional referendum to safeguard right to hunt, fish, and trap wildlife

The language I am seeing would seriously set the stage for privatization, Ranching for Wildlife and introductions of "huntable" species that could wreak havoc on Montana's ecosystem, all under the guise of "hunting/fishing rights".  As a conservation hunter/angler, I am appalled by this draft.

It opens with demanding a "right", not the "opportunity" as our Constitution currently states, as though our State serves to provide the fish and wildlife for harvesting like some commercial market, elevating hunting, fishing and trapping with our other Montana rights, stating they are, "essential to pursuing life's basic necessities." This raises the State's bar from our current "opportunity" and a "heritage". Imagine an outfitter or trapper suing the State, saying that he couldn't be regulated from meeting "life's basic necessities"?

One of the changes to our Constitution would be: "(2) The opportunity to harvest wild fish and wild game animals fish and wildlife is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state and does not create a right to trespass on private property or diminution of other private rights."

By removing "wild fish and wild game animals" opens the door for invasive and exotic species introductions. 

Do you want Montana turned into Texas with all it's exotic "huntable" game farms? Just yesterday a science article came up on my feed -
Invasive Wild Pigs Leave a Swath of Destruction Across U.S. – And They Keep Spreading!
I was at the Board of Livestock meeting where a  proactive bill was proposed, which thankfully passed in 2015, to restrict feral swine in Montana. Just this change alone would be a privatization nightmare in the making.

But wait...there's more... stating, "Fish and Wildlife management and conservation shall be subject to statutes that seek to:
"a) Scientifically manage fish and wildlife populations." Now y'all all know that I advocate for public trust doctrine scientific habitat, fish & wildlife management, but, there are times you have to deal with the social factor and this statement could remove the FWP Commission and public input, such as in the river rules.

"Protect citizens and private property from threats or harm caused by fish and wildlife."
This bit sounds like it came right out of USDA APHIS Wildlife Service's manual. This would conflict with Montana Supreme Court rulings Rathbone and Sackman about wildlife. "Montana is one of the few areas in the nation where wild game abounds. It is regarded as one of the greatest of the state's natural resources, as well as the chief attraction for visitors. Wild game existed here long before the coming of man. One who acquires property in Montana does so with notice and knowledge of the presence of wild game and presumably is cognizant of its natural habits. Wild game does not possess the power to distinguish between fructus naturales and fructus industriales, and cannot like domestic animals be controlled through an owner.
Accordingly a property owner in this state must recognize the fact that there may be some injury to property or inconvenience from wild game for which there is no recourse."

If Fielder feels that fish and wildlife are such a threat and in need of "controlling", perhaps she should have chosen another state to move to, maybe gone to work for a zoo and stayed out of Montana. Unless our fish and wildlife aren't really a "threat", but a means to sue and bankrupt our Fish, Wildlife & Parks, as well as limit our fish & wildlife on the landscape, increasing the commercialization of those that remain on the landscape - supply and demand. These are only two of the paragraphs worth of changes she is proposing.

Please contact your MT legislators (emails below) and stop her bull$h*t in it's tracks.

HB 315 and 318 FWP Licensing changes

In 2014, as a conservation hunter and angler, I and many others, participated in a very public process to review and discuss recommendations from an advisory council tasked with adjusting Montana's hunting and fishing licenses and fees. The call for the funding and license review came from both the 2013 Montana Legislature and Governor Steve Bullock. The Legislature passed House Bill 609, which requires the Montana Legislature’s Environmental Quality Council to conduct a study of hunting and fishing license statutes and fees, while Gov. Bullock requested that FWP begin a public effort to create FWP's budget for consideration
by the 2015 Legislature.

Nine public meetings were held in May to solicit comments on the council's recommendations. I participated in the Bozeman meeting on May 13th. The revisions would provide an additional $6.25 million a year to stave off deep budget cuts to fish and wildlife management programs,  simplify our licensing system; standardized license discounts for youth, seniors, and disabled hunters; a revamped base price structure and other adjustments to provide a fair and stable source of revenue for the state's fish and wildlife conservation efforts.

These two bills
dismiss this body of work that involved a tremendous public input, have only been in place for one year, therefore not supplying any supporting data showing a need for revision and are another attempt to cut FWP off at the knees, financially starving the department and the work it does.

HB 315 's Revising laws related to nonresident relative hunting and fishing licenses fiscal note shows the revenue lost to reduced prices:

  • Upland Game Bird Licenses - $880
  • Big Game Combination Licenses - $198,859
  • Deer Combination Licenses - $34,621
  • New Elk Combination Licenses - $174,960 (total of previous 3)
HB 318's Revise nonresident college student big game combination license fee fiscal note shows the revenue lost to reduced prices:
  •  Nonresident college student big game combination license - $13,478
In 2016 we sold 115 college student big game combo licenses at $505 for a total revenue to FWP of $58,075. In the previous year before the license changes were implemented we sold 477 college student big game combo licenses for $70 for a total of only $33,390. That is a huge difference to FWP revenue.

While we sold less tags under the revision, we gained $24,685 to fund our FWP resources.

Both bills are still in the House. Please contact the Representatives (addesses below), asking them to Oppose HB's 315 and 318. No data to support the need for license changes and FWP needs the revenue!

HB 96 was conceived through the Private Lands/Public Wildlife Council, amending MCA 87-2-513 to reward landowners for allowing public access hunting on their lands with 1 elk license or permit for every 4 public hunters. These landowner tags could only be used by their family members or their full-time employees. A number of us suspected this bill would be amended making this worse, and it was.

Rep. Kelly Flynn an outfitter from Townsend, added some amendments. 1. The landowner license or permit could designate anybody, 2. Landowner can't receive any compensation, 3. Landowner would have to name his designees, he was setting this up to be an additional program to address some of the concerns that this was double dipping for Block Management. Then suggested they add a sunset - conceptual amendment, so Kerry White suggested a sunset of June 2019, which also passed the Committee.

Now a landowner can transfer these elk licenses and permits to anyone, including non-resident hunters that would otherwise be purchasing out of state tags from FWP – and the landowner can sell access.

Don't be deceived, while the amendment text states, “An landowner may not receive compensation from a designee for a license or permit issued pursuant to this section or for hunting access on the landowner's property,” this is illegal and the landowners know it. Landowners can legally charge for access, it is their right. So either this restriction will be struck in another stage of the bill or if it passes, will be legally challenged in a court of law and struck, leaving us with ranching for wildlife.

In my numerous objections to elk shoulder seasons, I took screen shots of ads in the MT papers and on Craigslist that landowners put up advertising access fees for elk shoulder season hunts. I sent them to Gov. Bullock, Dir. Hagener, some FWP wildlife officials and our FWP Commissioners. Other members of the public also wrote in to complain.

As a result, I received an email from  FWP Dir. Hagener on Sept. 23, 2016, based on law:

"Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) has received a number of emails concerning an advertisement in local newspapers for elk hunts on private land during a particular shoulder season. The opportunity offered includes a fee. Other than the time when they occur and the restrictions to private land, shoulder seasons are no different than elk season during archery and general rifle seasons. Just as landowners can, if they choose to charge for access then, they can charge for access during a shoulder season...

To respond specifically to the question asked by some on the legality of this landowner’s offering:

No, it is not illegal for a landowner to rent a cabin and/or charge an access fee to hunt on his property. That is no different than a landowner renting his property for grazing or harvesting a crop. FWP does not condone access fees, but they are not prohibited by law and are not something FWP can regulate.”

Please email the House (addresses below) to Oppose HB 96.

House email addresses (just copy and paste the block into your email TO: header),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 

Senate Email addresses (just copy and paste the block into your email TO: header),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 


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Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu

Bozeman, MT

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