2019 Montana Legislative Update

Update: February 13, 2019

Greater Yellowstone Coalition is engaged in the 66th Montana legislative session.  Information about the session can be found here.  You can look up information about specific bills here.  The session is proving to be busy, with bills related to lands, waters, and wildlife being introduced every day.  We are tracking several significant bills that impact the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  Below are several issues we are particularly engaged in right now, due to the status of the bill and the threats or benefits posed.  Each bill description includes information about who to call to voice your opinion.

If you’re a Montana resident and want to be notified on how you can act, sign up for our e-mail alerts.

The easiest way to take action is to call 406-444-4800. You can leave a message for up to five legislators or an entire committee. Click here for contact information for specific legislators.

A wolf pack bonds in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo Cindy Goeddel.)

A wolf pack bonds in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo Cindy Goeddel.)

HB 279: ALLOW FOR WOLF TRAPPER EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT (SPONSOR: BOB BROWN (R), HD 13)

  • GYC opposes this bill because it essentially creates a bounty on trapping wolves. Paying trappers to harvest wolves is highly unethical, would create new challenges for law enforcement, and represents a throwback to the days of wildlife management that resulted in driving species like wolves to the brink of extinction.

  • We encourage you to call House Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Committee members and express opposition to this unethical bill.

SJ 6: RESOLUTION SUPPORTING DELISTING GRIZZLY BEARS FROM ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT (SPONSOR: MIKE CUFFE (R), SD 1)

  • GYC opposes this resolution for the same reasons we oppose a similar resolution in the Wyoming legislature. It injects politics and divisiveness into what should be a science-based process.

  • The resolution calls for delisting all Montana grizzly bears, thus undermining current science suggesting recovery areas like the GYE are distinct population segments still isolated from populations to the north.

  • The resolution also calls for eliminating any future judicial review of grizzly bear delisting decisions, which undermines the thoughtful process of an effective law, the Endangered Species Act.

  • This resolution is a waste of time for Montana legislators, as a similar resolution was passed in 2017. Montana legislators should focus on more productive uses of time than further dividing Montanans.

  • The hearing is scheduled for February 14th at 3:00 p.m.

  • We strongly encourage you to call your senators and members of the Senate Fish and Game committee TODAY to express opposition to this resolution.

HB 280: ADD WOLF LICENSE TO RESIDENT SPORTSMAN LICENSE WITH BEAR TAG (SPONSOR: BOB BROWN (R), HD 13)

  • GYC opposes this bill because it adds a wolf hunting license to the resident combination sports license for no additional fee. Allowing wolf hunting for no additional fee would generate a massive funding shortfall for Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks wildlife conservation and management activities.

  • Update: the bill will be amended to add the wolf license for a fee of $10. We still oppose this bill because it is an attempt to increase wolf harvest for reasons not founded in science.

  • This bill will now be assigned to a Senate Committee. We will keep you posed on who to call.

HB 281: REVISING LAW RELATED TO HOW NONRESIDENT WOLF LICENSES ARE ISSUED (SPONSOR: BOB BROWN (R), HD 13)

  • GYC opposes this bill for the same reasons we oppose HB 280. This is a similar bill but specific to non-resident hunting licenses.

  • The hearing is scheduled for February 12th at 3:00 p.m. (House Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Committee)

  • We encourage you to call House Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Committee members and express opposition to this bill.

HB 332: REQUIRE COUNTY APPROVAL TO RELOCATE BISON (SPONSOR: JOSHUA KASSMIER (R), HD 27)

  • GYC is opposed to this bad bill for bison conservation because it requires County Commissioner approval before wild bison can be translocated to new locations in the state of Montana. This bill gives politicians the decision-making authority over the Fish and Wildlife Commission as it relates to bison translocation. The intent is to thwart efforts around restoring wild bison to areas in Montana.

  • The hearing is scheduled for February 14th at 3:00 p.m.

  • Please call your representatives and members of the House Agriculture committee TODAY to voice your opposition to this bill.

SJ 7: STUDY RESOLUTION ON VALUES AND COSTS OF WOLVES AND GRIZZLIES (SPONSOR: MIKE PHILLIPS (D), SD 31)

  • GYC supports this resolution that would result in a study of the economic benefits and costs of wolves and grizzly bears to the tourism industry, hunting, and agriculture. The resolution requires results be reported to the 67th legislature.

  • An evaluation of the economic benefits of wolves and grizzly bears would quantify the value of these species and thus support conservation efforts.

  • The hearing date is TBD.

  • We encourage you to call Senate Fish and Game Committee members and express support for this resolution.

SB185: PROHIBIT HUNTING AND TRAPPING OF WOLVES NEAR YELLOWSTONE (SPONSOR: MIKE PHILLIPS (D), SD 31)

  • GYC supports the concept of no hunting in areas adjacent to Yellowstone National Park because of the important economic and scientific contributions of Yellowstone wolves. This bill as written takes away decision making authority from the fish and wildlife commission, which is a nuance likely to cause some disagreement within the conservation community. We are hopeful there are opportunities to modify this bill such that a broad conservation community could support it.

  • The hearing is scheduled for February 14th at 3:00 p.m. (Senate Fish and Game Committee)

  • We encourage you to call Senate Fish and Game Committee members TODAY and express support for no wolf hunting in areas adjacent to Yellowstone.

SB 187: PROHIBIT VEHICULAR INJURY OF PREDATORY ANIMALS (SPONSOR: MIKE PHILLIPS (D), SD 31)

  • GYC supports this bill because it prohibits people from using motorized vehicles to injure or kill predatory animals (like wolves, coyotes, bears, etc.).

  • This bill is not only good for wildlife but could also improve the reputation of the sporting community among Montana residents.

  • The hearing is scheduled for February 19th at 3:00 p.m.

  • We encourage you to call Senate Fish and Game Committee members and express support for this bill.

HB 287: GENERALLY REVISE TRAP-CHECKING REQUIREMENTS (SPONSOR: BRIDGET SMITH (D), HD 31)

  • This bill requires that trappers check their traps daily. The intent is to ensure wildlife are not caught in traps for an extended period of time.

  • The hearing is scheduled for February 7th at 3:00 p.m. (House Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Committee)

  • GYC is tracking this bill. We encourage you to call House Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Committee members and voice your opinion.

HB 291: ESTABLISHING THE VOLUNTARY WOLF MITIGATION ACCOUNT (SPONSOR: BECKY BEARD (R), HD 80)

  • GYC opposes this bill that establishes an account within the Department of Livestock where people can voluntarily contribute funds. The money would be paid to USDA Wildlife Services for wolf management in the form of lethal control.

  • This bill will likely cost more money to administer than it will generate and competes with already established programs like the Livestock Loss Board, which provides grants for non-lethal conflict mitigation and compensates livestock producers for their losses.

  • The hearing is scheduled for February 12th at 3:00 p.m. (House Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Committee)

  • We encourage you to call House Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Committee members and express opposition to this bill.

Stay tuned for more updates and new bill information as the legislative session unfolds. Thanks for calling your legislators and for all you do to support the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

If you’re a Montana resident and want to be notified on how you can act, sign up for our e-mail alerts.

— Brooke Shifrin, Wildlife Conservation Associate

— Shana Drimal, Wildlife Conservation Associate