Our point of view

Jeff HagenerNew plan could help Montana maintain control

The outcome of the 2015 Montana legislative session was generally positive for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, with a few serious exceptions.

The most important bill slightly raised resident hunting and fishing license fees, which was needed because inflation has steadily increased the cost of fish and wildlife management since the last fee increase a decade ago. The legislation will allow FWP to maintain existing fish and wildlife management and conservation programs for four more years by, starting in 2016, raising the cost of a resident fishing license by $3, requiring a new base hunting license that costs $8, and standardizing the price of currently free or discounted licenses at 50 percent of what other residents pay.

Our thanks go to Representative Jeff Welborn of Dillon, who carried the bill, and to the Citizen Fish & Wildlife Licensing and Funding Advisory Council, which represented hunters, anglers, businesses, legislators, and major conservation groups. The fact that the bill passed by 80 votes in the House is testament to the council members’ effectiveness—as well as the strong relationships that FWP game wardens, biologists, and others have built with landowners and sportsmen and sportswomen in communities across the state.

Other important bills that the legislature passed and were signed by Governor Steve Bullock:

Montana’s conservation community needs to be aware of this sentiment and prepare for future legislation that may seek to reduce or eliminate programs that acquire land for habitat and public access. The big question hunters, anglers, and other conservationists need to answer over the next two years is whether they value these programs and want them to continue.Bear bullet

Jeff Hagener is Director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks