2019 Montana Legislative Session: How the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem fared

The 66th Montana legislative session is over. We worked with many others in the conservation community to stop a variety of harmful wildlife bills and ensure a few positive bills made it to the finish line. My colleague Shana Drimal and I frequently traveled to Helena and worked with a full-time lobbyist to protect the wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Thanks for calling your legislators and making your voice heard for the wildlife of Greater Yellowstone. Here are some highlights from the session:

Wolf trapping bounties got blocked in Montana! (Photo Cindy Goeddel.)

Wolf trapping bounties got blocked in Montana! (Photo Cindy Goeddel.)

HB (House Bill) 132: Modify the definition of bison and HB 332: Require county approval to relocate bison

These bills that would have thwarted any future efforts to restore wild bison to new areas in Montana were vetoed by Governor Steve Bullock. Many thanks to Governor Bullock for strong leadership in stopping these bad ideas before they became law. And thank you to our supporters for contacting legislators and the Governor’s office to make your voice heard. We will continue to work toward improving conditions for wild bison in Montana.

HB 279: Allow for wolf trapper expense reimbursement

This bill that would have provided a harvest bounty to wolf trappers died on the Senate floor. Thanks to everyone who called their legislators- your voice makes a difference! Stopping this bill meant saving Montana from setting a terrible precedent of offering compensation to trappers for harvest, which would have represented a throwback to the days when wildlife management drove species like wolves to the brink.

SJ 6: Resolution supporting delisting grizzly bears from Endangered Species Act

This resolution to delist grizzly bears passed with a major overhaul and substantial amendments to address many of the concerns and inaccuracies pointed out by GYC and many other groups. We monitored this resolution until the end, to ensure the positive improvements stayed intact.

HB 520: Revise funding for livestock loss board

This bill to increase funding for the livestock loss board passed with strong support from both sides of the aisle. We supported this bill because the livestock loss board compensates livestock producers for confirmed depredations by large carnivores and provides grant opportunities for proactive non-lethal conflict prevention projects.

HB 5: Long-range building appropriations

This final budget bill maintained funding for state habitat conservation. GYC worked with our lobbyist and partners to make sure the Habitat Montana program that conserves important wildlife habitat in the state stayed intact.

HB 2: General Appropriations Act

This funding bill contains the operating budget for Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) and funds state wildlife management and conservation efforts in the state. FWP’s budget now includes an increase in the number of FWP employees, including several new grizzly bear specialists, wolf specialists and a new wildlife planner position who will work on deer and elk, freeing up capacity to work on grizzly bear conflict management and prevention. GYC and our partners worked to make sure these important additions to FWP’s budget stayed in place throughout the process. More capacity for grizzly bear conflict prevention work could potentially help in building social acceptance for grizzly bears across Montana.

We appreciate your support throughout the legislative session. Together, we are protecting the wild heart of North America!

-Brooke Shifrin, Wildlife Program Associate