Legislative Update February 8th 2021 | Montana Audubon

Montana Audubon

Montana Audubon works at the local, state and national policy levels to protect our natural heritage.

Legislative Update February 8th 2021

The first month of the 2021 legislative session has flown by! Montana Audubon’s lobbying team has been working the Capitol remotely every day: It has been a relatively moderate start with  testifying on 11 bills, supporting 2 and opposing 9. On January 21st we testified against SB 98, that would have allowed anyone to kill any grizzly bear at any time if livestock were in the area, resulting in the unregulated killing of grizzly bears, still a species listed on the Endangered Species Act, in Montana. On January 28th this bill was tabled in committee, and to show how quickly things can change, on February 5th SB 98 was pulled off the table and passed through Senate Agriculture on a party-line vote, 7-4. Now we will have to follow this bill to the Senate Floor. 

With this quick change of events, we can really feel things picking up steam. Starting February 8th, we will see the first public lands issues being raised, some similar in tone to the 2015. And unfortunately, as the pandemic has put a different twist on this year’s legislature, we are feeling the absence of our in person events like the Public Lands Rally and legislative training. In addition to public land transfer issues emerging, in the next few weeks hearings will be held to define all wild bison as livestock (an issue vetoed in 2019), to change subdivision review provisions, to phase out the use of styrofoam (finally a proactive issue!), and to allow public hunting on tribal lands. These issues are keeping our eyes glued to the screen as we work tirelessly with our conservation partners to make our collective voice heard! 

February is going to be a short but busy month. Below is a snapshot of pressing issues.

Join us on ZOOM for a Live Online Legislative Briefing, Wednesday, February 25 from 5-6 pm. Learn about the issues and about how you can help us lobby these bills. We will show you exactly how to participate in a remote session. February is a valuable time to participate so please join us and make your voices heard! 

2.25.2021 Zoom Link: (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89867760043?pwd=OXRLSXJNM3pxdUUzUEt1L2U5YjdKZz09)

If you have any questions about ongoing legislation or about our legislative briefing, please — as always — email Amy or Carmen at: [email protected] or [email protected].


Wildlife: Wolf and Bison bills

HB 224- Oppose

Status- (H) Fish, Wildlife and Parks–Bill Passed 2/5    

Action! Message your local House Representative and tell them to vote “No” on HB 224 HERE   

This bill allows licensed trappers to use snares, in addition to traps. Snares create a much greater risk to non-target wildlife and pets, and runs counter to the “know your target” aspects of fair chase hunting. This bill is an accident waiting to happen that will hurt trapping and create a lot of conflict with the non-trapping recreational community. 

HB 318– Oppose

Status- Introduced and Referred to House Agriculture on 2/5

Action! Track the bill status HERE

This bill tries to clarify the definition of “wild bison” or “wild buffalo” to include “never has been subject to a per capita fee under 15-24-921.” The changes are not necessary, and target herds on private lands. The bill was amended by the house, and while amendments make the bill better in some ways, they may make it so that Yellowstone bison that have experienced captivity at some point, to be considered livestock.


Habitat Montana

HB 5- Support

Status- Public comment to the committee through February 12th

Action! Message the Joint Subcommittee on Long Range Planning Committee HERE

This February, Montana legislators may challenge one of the most important aspects to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ (FWP) Habitat Montana Program: We will look for any legislation that would negatively impact conservation easements, and will be working to stop any legislation that may arise. Ourselves and many of the Local Audubon Chapters of Montana have signed on to support this bill!

SB 115– Oppose

Status- Hearing 2/9, 3 pm, Rm 172

Action! Send a message to the (H) Fish, WIldlife and Parks committee Here

If passed, this bill would require MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks to have land acquisitions and conservation easements approved by the Land Board if they are larger than 100 acres or cost more than $100,000. This politicizes the opportunity landowners have to put conservation easements on their land.



HB 241- Oppose

Status- Hearing 2/9, 3pm, Rm 172

Action! Send a message to the (H) Fish, WIldlife and Parks committee Here

HB 241 will revise laws related to Tribal hunting boundaries, by opening up fee title lands, within Montana Indian Reservations, publicly. Posed as an effort to increase public access to hunting opportunities, this idea will actually reignite previously litigated issues about who has access to hunt on fee title lands. Tribal members have this express right, and have worked with state agencies already to allow access. This bill will damage previous collaborations between the Montana’s sovereign Tribal Nations and our state agencies, while benefiting few land owners. 


Clean Energy

HB 273- Oppose

Status- Hearing 2/8, 3pm, Rm 472

Action! Send a message to the (H) Energy, Technology and Federal Relations committee Here

HB 273 will repeal laws pertaining to the Major Facility Siting Act. Under the Act, voters have to approve or reject a proposed nuclear facility and HB 273 will repeal that language. Repealing this language severely weakens the public’s say in whether or not Montana pursues nuclear energy, and, instead, forces Montanans to deal with the repercussions whether they want the nuclear facility or not.


General Environmental Protection

HB 265- Support

Status- Hearing 2/9, 8:30 AM, Rm 172   

Action! Send a message to the (H) Business and Labor committee Here

Beyond clean energy and wildlife, 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. 


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