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The 2011 Montana Legislature

An Assult on Public Land and Wildlife Mangement



In our goofy 90 day legislative session all kinds of strange things happen under the guise of dong the people’s business. Well, it happened again with HB387 which effectively negates I-161 – the initiative to restrict outfitter control of non-resident big game licenses. (PLWA supported the initiative because of the leverage it gave outfitters and landowners to lock up public land.)
HB387, sponsored by outfitter Kelly Flynn carves out 8,600 of the non-resident big game licenses and makes them eligible for an “early bird” drawing if the applicant pays an extra $300 fee. (In other words, by paying the fee, the applicant gets a very high probability of drawing and thus can book an outfitter.)
This bill snuck under the radar opponents and managed to pass the house and is likely to pass the senate. Thus, the only chance of defeating it is to get the Governor to veto it and having the veto upheld. At this point we cannot advise what you as a PLWA member can do except to let your senator know you appose it ,and standby for any updates. This may come down to the vote on overriding the veto

2/16/2011 HB309 , STOPPED WITH PLWA EFFORTS. This bill which was a flanking attack on stream access passed the house but with the efforts of PLWA , MWF, TU and a host of concerned citizens was tabled in the Senate Ag committee .

What HB 309 tried to do:
*It turns live side-channels of rivers, streams, and even whole rivers into private ditches.
*It essentially repeals stream access.
*A live, flowing braid or channel becomes a private ditch if there is any kind of a control structure at the head of the live channel.
*Whole streams and rivers will be private ditches whenever return flows from irrigation are the principle portion of the flow which is almost always the case wherever there is irrigation.
*It replaces a clear definition of private ditches that works with a definition that does not work.
*It will create endless litigation.
What HB 309 does not do:
*It does not add any protection for private ditches because the present stream access law already protects them as private property.
*It adds no additional protection for the construction of a ditch using all or part of an abandoned stream or river channel because these ditches are already defined as private ditches and are already off-limits for recreation.
*It does not address any problems because no problems have been identified.
*It represents a total failure to work with any other stakeholders.
*It violates the tradition of inclusion and collaboration that forged the original stream access law in 1985 and later hammered out the terms and conditions of county bridge access in 2009.

Billings Gazette Guest opinion: Public access to public land in great jeopardy


| Posted: Saturday, February 12, 2011 12:00 am

House Bill 290 is dead. The House Transportation Committee “tabled” it last week. That bill proposed a process that would provide some order to the many road closures that are taking place. It would have required that those who would close a road presently being used by the public for normal vehicle travel would have to appear before the appropriate county commissioners with evidence that the road was, indeed, a private road, and not a public road.

Most roads we are trying to protect are those that access public land and water. This appearance before the commissioners would have to occur before any gates or other barriers were erected.

There are at least three counties presently involved in lawsuits resulting from road closures prior to any formal notice. Closures in several other counties were simply accepted by the commissioners and the road became a private road, even though the road might have a significant public investments in maintenance or construction. Many of these roads were the only access to public land.

There are several bills in this Legislature that would take authority away from the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission and directly or indirectly give it to landowners. An example is HB413 that would make net client-hunter-use days a property right for outfitters. This bill by Rep. Bill Harris, R-Mosby, is one of several attempts to connect wildlife to land rather than people. The commission is required to manage wildlife as a public trust resource.

Court decisions have clearly stated that in the United States wildlife is held in trust for the people and not for the benefit of landowners or any other individual or corporation.

If the hunters of Montana allow this to happen they will regret it and our system of wildlife management will be similar to that of Europe. More important, perhaps, our children and grandchildren will see public wildlife as a commodity for sale much like widgets and iPods.

Contact your legislator and instruct him or her to vote in opposition to the following bills: HB413, HB361, HB272, HB387, HB285, HB309, SB 134, SB255.

And of course, tell them not to repeal Initiative 161 that did away with outfitter-sponsored licenses. Voters passed I-161 by a wide margin. Several legislators are outfitters by the way. Can you say “conflict of interest?”

Tell your legislative representative that these decisions belong with the fish and game commissioners, part of the executive branch of government. These are all sportsmen's dollars they are trying to manipulate. Last resort: Ask the governor to get out his veto pen.

John Gibson of Billings President - the Public Land / Water Access Association


Courtesy of Vito Quatraro, Headwaters Fish and Game - Bozeman

All PLWA members and public land access advocates need to pay attention and GET INVOLVED !


For whatever reason, legislators have submitted a large number of bills which are designed to strip authority from the FWP Commission, strip authority from the dept. of FWP, take funding away from the FWP, and may not be in the best interests of the Montana resident hunter. Below is a list of some of the bill or drafts presently being considered by the Senate and House Fish & Game Committees.

HB 148, sponsored by Rep. Kary-R, would allow motorized OHV access to public lands for game retrieval from 10 am to 4 pm. This bill allows cross country travel away from established roads and trails to retrieve game. It also places a burden on block management cooperators to allow the same cross country travel.

HB 159, sponsored by Rep. Smith-R, would restrict authority of FWP to regulate ammo or firearms for hunting.

HB 228, sponsored by Matthew M. Rosendale-R, would revise hunting privileges for youths by eliminating the minimum age requirements. Do we really want 7 year old children hunting big game with high powered rifles?

HB 214, sponsored by Rep. Bill Harris-R, would manage bison as livestock.

HB 272, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Flynn-R, would eliminate ability for FWP to use hunting access fees to acquire fee title lands. Evidently, we have too much public land to hunt on already SB 83, sponsored by Senator John Brenden-R, would have FWP bear the cost of removing road kill by reimbursing the dept. of Transportation.

SB 84, sponsored by Senator John Brenden-R, would revise the deposit of FWP fines, restitution and damages to the general fund as opposed to the FWP fund.

SB 119, sponsored by Senator Steven Gallus-D, would allow rifles for spring turkey hunting.

SB 136, sponsored by Senator Joe Balyeat-R,, would revise residency requirements for hunting so that anyone born in Montana could buy a big game combo license or bird license for resident fees, no matter what state they live in today, thereby creating a dual residency for hunting purposes.

SB 144, sponsored by Senator John Brenden-R, would prohibit free-roaming bison

Currently in LC draft format, not yet formalized as Bills are the following:

LC 0578, sponsored by Rep. Bill Harris-R, would revise elk hunting permits for limited drawing districts to allow for unlimited archery permits in any unit where there is not a general rifle season.

LC 1058, sponsored by Rep. Wendy Warburton-R, would revise fish and game enforcement laws so as to reimburse attorney fees and court costs to anyone charged but not convicted of a FWP violation, limiting search and seizure powers of game wardens, and removing negligence as a basis for violating a fish & game law.

LC 1145, sponsored by Rep. Wendy Warburton-R, would reclassify mountain lions as a predator that could be shot any time of year without a hunting license.

LC 1366, sponsored by Senator Jim Peterson-R, would establish criteria for FWP commission decisions. This draft must be read to fully appreciate the additional burden being placed on the FWP commission.

LC 1455, Sponsored by Rep. Mike Milburn-R, increase hunting license fee to fund livestock loss reduction mitigation fund.

This is just a few of the pieces of legislation facing the FWP and hunters of Montana. The future of wildlife management and hunting in the State of Montana could change dramatically if the some of the above listed bills become law. Contact your legislators to voice support or opposition for these bills. If you would like the link to the bills going thru the House & Senate Fish and Game committees, please e-mail me at the address below.

Vito Quatraro is the president of Headwaters Fish & Game Association in Bozeman and a past member of the Private Land/Public Wildlife Council. He can be reached at vrq@montana.com


As the 2011 Montana Legislature convenes we can expect some serious attempts to privatize and commercialize elements of the Public Estate. Foremost among these is public wildlife. THE PUBLIC TRUST DOCTRINE. Our bedrock position comes from the U.S. Supreme Court and Montana Supreme Court decisions which clearly state that wildlife is owned by the people and held in trust for them. In every case decided , wildlife ownership is connected to THE PEOPLE and NOT THE LAND. We oppose any legislation that would erode that relationship - including issuance of tags or permits by anyone other than the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Only that agency should issue authority to legally hunt and harvest wildlife.

1.) Current law allows landownersto obtain 20 percent of the big game permits issued on their property for use by their family members or full time employees. These must remain NON TRANSFERABLE. (Someone may try to sneak in a bill to that effect.)

2.) We support the policy of the ten percent limit on non-resident big game permits in any category (Nonresidents as defined in current law). This is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court Case of Baldwin vs. Montana where the court determined that "A state may prefer its residents over the residents of other states or condition the enjoyment of nonresidents upon such terms as it sees fit."

3.) We oppose any increase in the number of nonresident big game licenses. (We are likely to see bills increasing the number of elk licenses (17,000) in order to give non residents a better chance in the draw.)

4.) We also oppose any reduction in the number of streams that have been classified as navigable. These streams are qualified as navigable as a result of historic use as commercial waterways and the beds of the rivers so classified are owned by the public. (A bill has been introduced changing the definition of navigability.)

PLWA will try to keep you up to date on significant bills as the session proceeds, but do what you can to take action by calling, emailing or writing your legislators. It makes a BIG difference when these negative bills come up. Please pass this and other emails on the subject to a list of your hunting and angling friends. Let's make it viral. (Some legislators say that is what turned the tide in the 2009 session for the bridge access bill.)

John Gibson, PLWA President

For your convenience here are lists of Fish And Game commitees members:

House Fish and Game Committee

Chairman: Ted Washburn (R) Bozeman ted@tedwashburn.com
Jeffrey Welborn (R) Dillon use legislative comment link
Cydnie (Carlie) Boland (D) Great Falls cboland@mt.gov
Virginia Court (D) Billings vjchd52@yahoo.com
Pat Connell (R) Butte connell4HD87@yahoo.com
Robyn Driscoll (D) Billings rdriscoll@peoplepc.com
Kelly Flynn (R) Townsend hideaway@mt.net
Bill Harris (R) Roundup bharris@midrivers.com
Doug Kary (R) Billings dougkary.hd48@gmail.com
Dan Kennedy (R) Laurel dan@votedankennedy.com
Austin Knudsen (R) Culbertson austinforhouse@yahoo.com
Cleve Loney (R) Great Falls cloney@q.com
Mike Miller (R) Helmville mike4hd84@blackfoot.net
Jesse O’Hara (R) Great Falls jesse59404@yahoo.com
Ken Peterson (R) Billings kenneth59@bresnan.net
Mike Phillips (D) Bozeman mikephillips@montana.net
Jean Price (D) Great Falls jl_price@bresnan.net
Dan Skattum (R) Livingston skattumd@wispwest.net
Franke Wilmer (D) Bozeman franke.wilmer@gmail.com
Max Yates (R) Butte max.yates.hd74@gmail.com

Senate FWP Committee 2011

Art Wittich SenatorWittich@montana.com
Jim Shockley no known email
Larry Jent larry@imt.net
Greg Hinkle ghinklesd7@gmail.com
Senator Hamlett wranglergallery@hotmail.com
Steve Gallus steve.gallus@gmail.com
Tom Facey facey_tom@hotmail.com
John Brend Senatorbrenden@gmail.com
Debby Barrett grt3177@smtel.com
Joe Balyeat joebalyeat@yahoo.com

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Public Land/Water Access Association Inc. or PLWA, is a citizen group organized and operated under the Montana nonprofit corporation act.

Articles and Information on this site represent the opinion of the writer and are not intended as legal advice. Legal counsel may be needed in dealing with specific access situations and issues.
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