The June 15 guest view published in the Montana Standard titled Our outdoor heritage, authored by Representatives Wylie Galt, Casey Knudsen, and Sue Vinton, suggested that Republican legislators worked to improve Montanans' recreational opportunities during the 2021 legislative session. They claimed to have improved wildlife management, expanded elk hunting opportunity, reduced efforts to shut off access to public lands, improved habitat, and reformed Montana’s outdoor management agencies. They accused Montanans, frustrated with their actions, of generating false claims about their work.
As a group of Montana resident sportsmen, the Butte Skyline Sportsmen’s Association respectfully disagrees with many of these claims. From our perspective, the 2021 legislative session was one of the most demanding and frustrating experienced, because of Republican-sponsored legislation. We do appreciate Republican-sponsored HB 353, which authorized replacement hunting licenses for harvested game deemed unfit for consumption, and the portion of HB 637 that increased Block Management reimbursement to landowners. We also appreciate funding allocated to the Habitat Montana Program through HB 701. However, funding allocation to the Habitat Montana Program — a program Butte Skyline Sportsmen's Association views as one of the most beneficial to Montana resident sportsmen and general public lands users — was not the result of Republican effort. Montanans spoke clearly, through their votes on Ballot Initiative 190, regarding our desire for this funding. Subsequently, Montanans had to fight Republican legislators to include this funding in HB 701.
From our perspective Republican-sponsored legislation also attempted to or did:
- commercially privatize our public elk to the benefit of some private landowners and wealthy nonresident hunters (HB 505, SB 143);
- increase the nonresident big game hunters in Montana (HB 637);
- reduce the public's ability to collectively purchase land for our interests (HB 677);
- reduce the public's ability to provide comment on environmental reviews by allowing financial charge for our comments (HB 695);
- require hunters to financially compensate some private landowners for crop damage resulting from over-objective elk populations even if hunters had no legal access to harvest those elk (HB 697);
- reduce the public's opportunity to pursue mature bull elk on public lands by removing long-established limited entry bull elk permits (HB 417);
- remove voter-approved conservation funding generated by taxes on marijuana (HB 670);
- complicate the public's ability to acquire private land conservation easements by adding layers of government hurdles (SB 115);
- remove administration of sportsmen-purchased Wildlife Management Areas and Fishing Access Sites from our Fish and Wildlife Commission (SB 153);
- secure a perpetual voting majority for some private landowners on the Fish and Wildlife Commission (SB 306);
- remove the public's ability to legally challenge disputed public rights-of-ways to public lands (SB 354);
- spend large amounts of sportsmen's funds on pheasant raise and release efforts that have long been proven ineffective (HB 637);
- remove hunters' ability to donate permit and license refund monies to the Habitat Montana Program (amendments to SB 208);
- prevent sportsmen-supported Andrew McKean from serving on the Fish and Wildlife Commission (SR 61);
- remove Montana resident sportsmen representation on the Board of Outfitters (SB 275);
- and overturn voter-approved Initiative 161, which made clear that the majority of Montanans don't support outfitter-guaranteed hunting license allocation (SB 143).
Throughout the session, Montana sportsmen overwhelmingly commented to the Senate Fish and Game committee on bills that were not in our best interest that were then moved out of committee on 7-4 party-line votes, with Republican legislators voting against Montana sportsmen's interests. Republican avoidance of Montana resident sportsmen input was clearly demonstrated when sportsmen-opposed elk management legislation that increased nonresident elk licenses was amended into HB 637 and voted out of committee in the final hours of the session without soliciting any public comment.
If the authors of "Our Outdoor Heritage" truly worked to benefit Montana resident outdoor opportunity last legislative session, what’s the need to write guest editorials explaining public benefit? Shouldn't the results of your work and the responses from the public speak for themselves?
The Butte Skyline Sportsmen's Association wants to emphasize these are our perspectives of the 2021 legislative session. We encourage Montana resident outdoor enthusiasts, especially resident hunters, not to blindly accept our perspectives or the perspectives of politicians, regardless of party affiliation. We encourage you to review the bill introductions and voting records from the 2021 legislative session and develop your own perspectives on how ongoing legislation is impacting your outdoor heritage. Information on introduced bills, bill amendments, and bill votes can be found at https://www.leg.mt.gov. If you need assistance navigating the Montana State Legislature website, please contact the Butte Skyline Sportsmen's Association at email@example.com or our Facebook page at Skyline Sportsman’s Association Butte, MT.