HB 265 Betrays Public Lands

Habitat Montana does not need help from politicians

By LaVerne Sultz

I have spent most of the past 30 years both working and playing on Montana’s public lands. For all that time, the Habitat Montana program has been wisely used to spend hunting license dollars to purchase more than 600,000 acres of conservation easements and fee-title lands to conserve and improve critical wildlife habitat across the state. This program is popular with hunters, anglers, hikers, birders and many others who enjoy our abundance of wildlife and natural lands.

For some reason, many in the Legislature can’t stand to see any money spent without their fingers in the pot. Even though these are not tax dollars, they have tried over the last couple of legislative sessions to stop or alter the Habitat Montana program. This year they managed to get HB 265 passed on a party-line vote. This bill will force all Habitat Montana easements to be approved by the state land board, a blatantly political body.

These easements increase and improve our precious wildlife habitat and are completely vetted through a public process that can take up to two years before being approved by the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission. There is no need to interject politics into the process by requiring that the easements go before the partisan-controlled land board. HB 625 would add another messy bureaucratic layer to the process and, in effect give veto power over mutually agreed-to transactions to politically-appointed hacks with alternate agendas.

Habitat Montana does not need help from politicians. It has worked just fine for many years and will do so well into the future if we don’t turn the process over to partisan sycophants who have more interest in sectarian power games than in public lands. Tell Gov. Steve Bullock to veto HB 265.

LaVerne Sultz