The first month and a half of the 2019 legislative session has flown by! Montana Audubon’s lobbying team has been in the halls of the capital every day talking to legislators: we have testified on 32 bills (supporting 18 and opposing 14), hosted an MSU class for a lobby day, worked with legislators to amend a few bills, met with Sacajawea, Last Chance and Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon Societies, and contributed to the public lands rally in January. (The 2019 rally brought over 1600 public lands advocates to the capital rotunda.) While we have these achievements to share with you, we must keep working every day. It’s time to keep moving forward on our major issues that include four broad categories: Wildlife, Climate Change and Energy, Natural Resources, and General Environmental Protection.
Wildlife— most bills we work on fall into this category. Notably, as was introduced last session, HB 227 was a bill to revise pet ownership laws in Montana. The issues with this bill are far ranging: it was going to amend the rabies control act allowing the four main vectors of rabies — foxes, bats, racoons, and skunks — to be legal pets if they were vaccinated as required by the Department of Public Health and Human Services — among other problems. There are also a number anti-wolf bills and bills that amend wolf hunting statutes.
Of the wildlife bills, the most important we opposed was HB 161. This bill would have disallowed anything but facts and science to be used in Fish, Wildlife, & Parks decision making processes. HB 161 ignores decades of cooperation between landowners, hunters, anglers and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks that has been critical to the management of wildlife, and would have destroyed the Public Trust that Montanans hold so dear. Fortunately, HB 161 was tabled in committee on a 9-9 vote when Joe Krautter (R-Sydney) was the lone Republican to vote against the bill.
Climate Change & Energy— so far our energy work has been focused in two distinct areas: pipelines and carbon taxes. Two bills introduced in the middle of January were aimed at the siting of pipelines, and particularly re-siting the Keystone Pipeline in Montana; however, since the Keystone XL Pipeline was approved to be built in Montana in 2012, the Fort Peck tribes have built a 300 million dollar water system, the Greater Sage Grouse Stewardship Act was passed, and we have additional tools for quantifying impacts. We believe all of these things should be considered in a new environmental impact statement provided for the project. Since they haven’t, it is hard to say what the total environmental, wildlife and wildlife habitat, terrestrial vegetation, and water impacts may be from the Keystone XL Pipeline.
It wasn’t all about the environmental impacts of pipelines: global warming is a dire situation that we and all our wildlife face today. Finding ways to decrease the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere is something that we care deeply about, and we are following a couple bills that would create a state-wide carbon tax. Both bills aim to accomplish the same thing: to decrease the amount of carbon emitted by significant percentages over the next 50 years.
General Environmental Protection— Clean air and clean and abundant water are key goals of environmental protection. To this end we have worked on SB 32, a bill that would establish a stream gauge oversight working group to streamline the ability to manage our state’s vast stream-gauge network. The long-term and consistent information provided by stream gauges is vital to managing waters for fish habitat, flood mitigation, and irrigation– among others. Additional water bills are on the way, including one that would redefine natural streams, and one that would protect Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ authority over in-stream flow for fisheries protection.
Beyond clean water and clean air, it is important for us to work on other general issues that have sensible solutions. Decreasing the consumption of straws, plastic bags, and styrofoam — while seemingly small — have substantial global impacts on wildlife and their habitat, local public health, and local litter issues. It is sensible for us to use alternatives that are more environmentally friendly, and influence people to decrease the amount consumed without limiting their choices. Unfortunately all of these bills were tabled shortly after the hearings.
There is much more to come, and as we push ahead we will stay focused on our top priorities:
We will continue sending Action Alerts asking you to contact your Representative or Senator on key bills. So when you see an Action Alert be sure to open! Have your friends join too! And, as always, you are welcome in Helena anytime – come see the action in person! We have a day designed especially for you:
March 8th. Conservation Lobby Day starting at 9:00 am – location TBD.