April 6, 2021
Speaker Wylie Galt
Montana State House of Representatives
1301 E. Sixth Ave.
Helena, MT 59601
RE: Montana Sporting Coalition opposition to HB 697
Dear Speaker Galt and House members,
The Montana Sporting Coalition is made up of traditional hunting and fishing organizations that collectively have thousands of members throughout the state and nation. We include general wildlife and sporting groups, species-specific organizations and fishing organizations. We are deeply committed to conserving our public trust fish and wildlife resources, working with landowners for solutions to issues and providing public sporting opportunity.
For those reasons, we are strongly opposed to HB 697, a bill that would create a crop damage program and fund it with hunter-license generated Habitat Montana dollars. This bill would jeopardize roughly $28 million in funding for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, a significant portion of the agency’s roughly $100 million annual budget. It would amount to a diversion of hunter license dollars, and with that the matching federal Pittman-Robertson funds that hunters and shooters pay for. This would be devastating for the agency’s ability to manage our public wildlife, and harmful not only to hunters but also to landowners who rely on a functional agency.
It would also require seven additional FWP staffers to manage the program, further harming the agency. And it would pull more than a third of funding from the Habitat Montana program, which is among the most popular programs FWP has for landowners, and is dramatically over-subscribed in applications for private land conservation easements and targeted habitat purchases.
Habitat Montana helps working farms and ranches, timber lands and provides public access. The program is more popular than it ever has been in its more than three-decade existence. And it helps facilitate public access for hunting to not only the lands it covers, but also adjoining public lands that the public gains access to. Habitat Montana helps us better manage our public wildlife to reach population objectives.
Please table HB 697 and let us continue to build on the working relationship between hunters and landowners to benefit both parties and achieve better wildlife management outcomes.
Thank you for your consideration,
Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
National Wildlife Federation
Montana Sportsman’s Alliance
Montana Wildlife Federation
Wild Sheep Foundation
The Wildlife Society
Montana Bowhunters Association