Current topics detailed in the Hotlist that we are focusing on include:
Water - Killing SB 19 continues to be a priority for us. It codifies a loophole that allows developers to use unlimited "exempt wells" for subdivisions or fish ponds, without having to have the cumulative effects of this use evaluated for how it might affect connected trout streams or senior water rights.
Land use planning - A bevy of new bills have been introduced that reduce the ability of local government to use planning and zoning to protect fish, wildlife, water, human health and safety and property rights. Still alive is SB 17, a bill that would place a constitutional initiative on the general ballot altering constitutional language affecting private property in a way that invites blizzards of lawsuits by landowners who object to reasonable regulations that protect water, air, fish or wildlife. Other bills will make it difficult for private interests or FWP to purchase conservation easements from willing sellers.
Gravel Pits - Several new bills - SB 229 and SB 23 -- facilitate the construction of new gravel operations with reduced deference for protecting streams or nearby private property. Or, they allow major expansions of existing operations without requiring additional environmental review for potential effects on nearby rivers. These are unnecessary measures and we're working to get them tabled.
Funding - Appropriation bills are still in a holding pattern or slowly working their way through committees. Our concern over the fate of funding of the Future Fishery Improvement Program, which has funded millions of dollars of great habitat restoration over the last 17 years has not diminished. A number of proposals are being discussed that could divert money away from this incredibly important program - a program that has helped fund many TU restoration projects. We will probably be calling on TU members for help on this one.
Other - A curious bill that would have required barbless hooks for waters with catch-and-release angling regulations was tabled last week. The language was flawed. We note that the FWP commission already has authority to implement this by regulation, and to do it, unlike the proposed legislation, after considering local fish populations and angling pressure.
Your help will be crucial. Please keep checking www.montanatu.org. And don't hesitate to contact us at 406-543-0054, or, at firstname.lastname@example.org.