Posts tagged: 2013 Montana Legislature
PUBLIC LANDS — Led by Republicans, the Montana House has rejected a plan to give hunters and others access at “corner crossings” to public land that is intermingled with private land in a checkerboard pattern.
The measure was championed by sportsmen and House Democrats to ensure public access to more than 800,000 acres of landlocked public parcels in the state.
Hunters and advocacy groups packed the chamber in support of the measure, seeking access to patches of government land that meet at corners. Supporters of House Bill 235 said denying access at such corners ensures that mega-land owners like Ted Turner can lock up blocks of public land.
“This law would no longer criminalize a Montana sportsman from jumping from one corner of public land to another corner of public land,” said Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula. “We are talking about hopscotch, folks, leaping from one corner of public property without touching any private land.”
Republican critics argued that there is no way to cross at the corners without trespassing, even if a person knows exactly where the property lines intersect. They argued that a person's hips and shoulders would cross the airspace at the intersection of the four corners while hopping between parcels.
In Washington, a hunter would be legal in crossing a corner if he didn't stray onto private lands, state Fish and Wildlife police say.
“As far as I'm aware, where four sections come together at a single point, no Washington officer would cite a person who went right over the corner. It seems like Montana is cutting hairs pretty close to cite somebody for trespassing in that instance.”
— Capt. Dan Rahn, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Region 1 enforcement coordinator.
PREDATORS — A proposal to narrow wildlife management options and expand the state's wolf hunt is being fast-tracked through the Montana Legislature for the governor's, according to the Associated Press.
Here's more info from the AP:
House Bill 73 lets the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks increase the number of wolves one hunter can take, allows for electronic calls and removes a requirement to wear hunter orange outside general deer and elk season.
The department last month abandoned efforts to shut down gray wolf hunting and trapping in an area north of Yellowstone National Park after wolves popular with the park visitors and five radio-collared wolves important to wolf research were killed.
Lawmakers wanted to make sure such a regional closure doesn't come up again.
Gov. Steve Bullock has indicated support for the legislation, noting it had been backed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
“The department did support it, and at the end of the day we need to base these decisions on science, not on politics, and allowing more than one, three wolves to be taken, it fits in with the science,” he said.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks said it already has prepared rule changes that will allow the legislation to immediately impact what remains of the wolf hunting season ending Feb. 28.
Hunters and trappers so far this season have killed fewer than 200 wolves. Wildlife officials are hoping to reduce the animals' population from an estimated 650 wolves to around 450. The goal is to reduce wolf attacks on livestock and help some elk herds that have been in decline due to wolf attacks.
Wildlife advocates have argued the state is being too aggressive against a species only recently restored to the Northern Rockies after it was widely exterminated last century. But no one spoke against the expanded wolf hunt on the Senate floor.
“These creatures are hard to hunt, and we need to allow our wolf hunters the best chance of getting into them while the season is still ongoing,” said Sen.Larry Jent, D-Bozeman.
Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, said the “big kumbaya” around the bill concerned him because he argued it doesn't go far enough to limit wolf numbers. He said the FWP is going to have to start allowing snare trapping of the wolves, a controversial practice the wildlife commission banned with its trapping regulations.
“While this bill will do some things, it is not the big answer,” Thomas said. “If you really want to get after this, you have to authorize snaring.”