Viewpoint: Montana sportsmen must watch Legislature closely
Butte Skyline Sportsmen’s Association would like to remind hunters that the 2023 Montana Legislative Session started on January 2.
This session is certain to bring a lot of focus on wildlife management, public access, and habitat conservation. As the session begins, 164 introduced and unintroduced bills are listed in the Fish and Wildlife category.
They can be viewed and tracked by visiting https://leg.mt.gov/, clicking Look Up Bills, and selecting Fish and Wildlife within the Select a Subject drop-down box.
Montana hunters endured many challenging bills during the 2021 session. Some became law and some didn’t. Notable bills attempted to or did: commercially privatize public elk to the benefit of some private landowners and wealthy nonresident hunters (HB 505, SB 143); increase nonresident big game hunting licenses (HB 637); reduce the public’s ability to purchase land (HB 677); require hunters to financially compensate some private landowners for crop damage resulting from elk, even if hunters had no legal access to harvest those elk (HB 697); reduce the public's opportunity to pursue mature bull elk by removing long-established limited entry permits (HB 417); remove voter-approved conservation funding generated by taxes on recreational marijuana (HB 670); secure a perpetual voting majority for some private landowners on the Fish and Wildlife Commission (SB 306); remove the public’s ability to legally challenge disputed public rights-of-ways to public lands (SB 354); spend large amounts of sportsmen’s funds on pheasant raise and release efforts that have long been proven ineffective (HB 637); remove hunter’s ability to donate to the Habitat Montana Program (amendments to SB 208); and overturn voter-approved Initiative 161, which made clear that the majority of Montanans don’t support outfitter-guaranteed hunting license allocation (SB 143, HB 637).
Those bills that failed to become law, did so because individual hunters expressed their opposition through the public comment process. Legislators heard that collective hunter voice.
Butte Skyline Sportsmen’s Association will again be tracking bills and providing comment, supportive and non-supportive, with the Montana resident sportsmen’s interest in mind. We encourage you, the individual hunter, to also track bills, provide your comment, and monitor how your elected representatives vote.
You can provide comment by phone at 406-444-4800 or by email by visiting https://leg.mt.gov/, clicking Have Your Say, then clicking Send messages through the website. To follow bills Skyline is tracking follow our Facebook page at Skyline Sportsman’s Association Butte, MT.