2019 Montana Legislative Update

Update: March 26, 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.  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 132: modify the definition of BISON (SPONSOR: Kenneth Holmlund (R), HD 38)

  • GYC opposes this bill. HB 132 modifies the definition of wild bison, adding that wild bison are animals that have NEVER been reduced to captivity. This would disqualify virtually all bison, including privately owned, those from existing conservation herds, and even wild Yellowstone bison, from being used to restore public wild bison herds in Montana.

  • For years, GYC and countless others have been working toward a means to use genetically pure Yellowstone bison to restore wild bison herds to public and tribal lands in Montana.  However, because Yellowstone bison are required to go through a capture-quarantine process to ensure they are disease-free before transfer elsewhere, under HB 132 they would no longer be considered wild and could not be used to restore public bison herds in Montana. 

  • Even though wild bison historically roamed throughout much of Montana, there are currently no wild bison in the state other than those animals that seasonally use limited areas outside of Yellowstone National Park. The intent of this bill is to keep it that way, ensuring the permanent extirpation of wild bison in Montana outside of the Yellowstone area.

  • HB 132 passed the Montana House of Representatives and Senate. Our last hope is a veto from the Governor.

  • Please contact the Governor’s office at 406-444-3111 to voice your opposition to this bill and ask for a veto.

 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.

  • This bill has been transmitted to the Senate. Please call your Senators and members of the Senate Fish and Game Committee TODAY at 406-444-4800 and tell them to vote NO on this bill.

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

  • Update: This resolution was amended to remove language around congressional delisting and address inaccuracies. The resolution passed out of the Senate Fish and Game Committee as amended.  The resolution also passed on the Senate floor and has been transmitted to the House Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Committee.

  • GYC is monitoring this resolution and watching to make sure amendments to the resolution stay in their current form.

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.

  • This bill has been transmitted to the Senate Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation Committee. The next hearing date is scheduled for March 26, 2019. Please contact members of this committee TODAY at 406-444-4800 to express opposition to this bill.

HB 520: Revise funding for livestock loss board (SPONSOR: RAY SHAW (R), HD 71)

  • GYC supports this bill because it increases the amount of money transferred from the state general fund to the livestock loss board each fiscal year.  The livestock loss board provides compensation to ranchers who lose their livestock to predation by wolves and grizzly bears.  The account also awards grants for non-lethal conflict prevention efforts.  Tools like the livestock loss board promote coexistence among livestock producers and carnivores on a shared landscape.

  • This bill was transmitted to the Senate. Please call members of the Senate Finance and Claims Committee at 406-444-4800 and express support for this bill.

HB 280: revise how wolf licenses issued to resident hunters (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. If this license add on does not attract new wolf hunters as intended, it would represent a loss in funding for Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks because people who would have purchased wolf licenses anyways would pay less under this law.

  • This bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee.  Please call members of this committee and your representatives to express opposition to this bill.

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.

  • This bill has been transmitted to the Senate. Please call members of the Senate Fish and Game Committee and express 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 scheduled for April 11, 2019.

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

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.

  • This bill has been transmitted to the Senate. Please call your Senators and members of the Senate Fish and Game Committee TODAY at 406-444-4800 and tell them to vote NO on this bill.

HB 435: PROVIDE FOR GATEWAY LOCAL OPTION TAX (SPONSOR: LAURIE BISHOP (D), HD 60)

  • Despite significant local support, on March 15 the House Taxation Committee shelved a bill that could have led to using tourist tax dollars to fund conservation interests in the upper Yellowstone River corridor.

  • HB 435 – The Gateway Local Option Tax – would have provided the opportunity for locals to put a tourism tax of up to 4 percent on a local ballot for a vote. Park County and the City of Livingston have been interested in generating revenue to support infrastructure, emergency services and property tax relief, while local business owners have expressed the need to fund natural resource conservation as well.

  • GYC’s Waters program staff worked with six business owners in Park County Montana to craft an Op-Ed in support of the legislation. The Op-Ed was printed in the Billings Gazette on March 13 and later appeared in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and Livingston Enterprise.

  • Although the bill did not pass through committee, a growing collection of stakeholders are committed to building broader grassroots support for the effort and passing this legislation. GYC will continue to lead in this role.

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

— Charles Drimal, Senior Water Conservation Associate