The Hail Mary

We’re down to the last third of the Montana Legislature. The newness of the halls and cameras and lights wanes as the grind of actually pushing bills through an unending process begins to take its toll on freshmen and experienced legislators alike.

Much progress has been made to ensure that the future of Montana’s hunting and angling traditions remains strong. There have been some bad bills that have escaped the grasp of the volunteers and lobbyists working the Legislature, and there have been some great bills that have passed with a large margin of support on both sides of the political aisle. There have also been a number of study bills and resolutions passed that will hopefully help heal some of the old wounds that we see repeatedly at the Legislature.

But we’re also down to the part of the session where the real shenanigans come out. No bill is rifer with bad policy and tone-deaf bull-headedness than SB 397. This bill, sponsored by an outfitter out of Darby, seeks to put a serious hurt on the number and distribution of predators in the state by mandating elk objectives and telling FWP to abandon science and measured regulations in favor of a blood bath of lions, bears and wolves regardless of effectiveness or need.

That’s right, we’re going to blindly kill lions, bears and wolves if elk objectives get below 75% of the established spread. It doesn't matter if a wildlife has moved through and created a situation where elk have moved out, doesn't matter if forage conditions are sub-par, or it doesn't even matter if, like the West Fork of the Bitterroot, we shoot the living hell out of breeding age cows for years.

Toothy Critters kill ungulates. There is no doubt of that. But this bill ignores Montana's history, doesn't care about biology and have no clue how the past legislative meddlings have impacted Montana's Elk and Elk Hunters. It's the fault of toothy critters, facts be damned.

It’s tiresome dealing with people whose minds are made up regardless of the facts.

The bill also calls for the hound hunting and baiting of bears, throws cat seasons wide open and ignores the very real and very direct courses of action FWP has undertaken during the last two years to better understand what’s going on both in terms of predation and in terms of habitat.

The reality is this: The anti-predator, anti-North American Model crowd has been hard at work this session trying to advance bills that would put wolves back on the Endangered Species List, erode Montana’s fair chase ethics and ignore science and the North American Model. They've been largely unsuccessful and so this is their Hail Mary pass; their last stand before the gaping chasm of budget debates and Medicaid expansion come forward and make all their selfish interests seem even more petty than they already are.

Are you going to let them destroy Montana so that we can be more like Utah, or are you going to fight back?

The hearing for SB 397 is tomorrow, at 3 PM in the Senate Fish & Game hearing room, 422. You can contact the committee here, or call them at 406-444-4800 and tell the committee to vote no on SB 397.

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Hellgate Hunters and Anglers
Our Mission is to conserve Montana's wildlife, wild places, and fair-chase hunting and fishing heritage.