Lawsuits loom as agencies ponder grizzly bear recovery

With grizzly-bear recovery potentially complete in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, agencies are daring to plan for a time when most bears are under state control.

A lot of balls remain in the air as the Interagency Grizzly Bear Executive Committee met to consider its next five-year plan. The committee is juggling the pending delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population and the myriad of challenges posed by the six other regions of grizzly recovery in the Northwest.

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Montana's enviro writers accused of campaign violations

A Helena Republican claims 40 of Montana’s top writers and their supporters violated federal election laws during the recent special election for Montana’s Congressional representative.

Recently, the writers, photographers and dozens of supporters received letters from the Federal Election Commission informing them that Joe Dooling, Chair of the Lewis and Clark County Republican committee, had filed a complaint accusing them of multiple campaign violations. Dooling also ran for but lost a state senate race in a Helena district to Jill Cohenour in 2014.

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FWP commission rejects Quiet Waters proposal

After almost a year of consideration and comment, a proposal to save some of Montana’s streams from the technological toys of the future has been defeated.

While considering the Quiet Waters Initiative on Friday, the three new members of the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission had their first taste of the contentiousness that can flare up in response to fish and wildlife proposals. Although the commission was originally scheduled to vote on the initiative, Chairman Dan Vermillion proposed to once again extend the public comment period to gather more information and give those new commissioners a chance to better acquaint themselves with the issue prior to voting. So that’s the thing he asked people to comment on.

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New owner of Stillwater Mine must remain a good neighbor

Last week’s purchase of the Stillwater Mining Company puts one more Montana mine in foreign hands. Fortunately, a citizen-crafted agreement will keep the new company from being environmentally irresponsible.

On May 4, the Stillwater Mining Company finalized about six months of negotiations and agreed to sell $2.2 billion worth of assets to Sibanye Gold Limited, a South African gold mining company. The buyout helped Stillwater transfer $500 million worth of debt it had accumulated since the 2008 recession.

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FWP: Wolves to be managed like other game

The two new members of the Fish, Wildlife & Parks commission got off to an easy start on Friday with minimal public comment on wolves, lions and grizzly bears. But wolves still sparked discussion.

Commission chair Dan Vermillion praised an FWP proposal to finally include wolves in the regular season-setting agenda that comes before the commission every two years.

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Gov vetoes bill easing Board of Outfitters requirements

Hunting guides and outfitters will have to continue recording details of clients' hunts after the defeat of a bill backed by Montana Outfitters and Guides.

On Monday, the last day before the bill would have become law without his signature, Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed Senate Bill 264. SB 264 would have reduced the information collected by the Montana Board of Outfitters to only that required to justify outfitter licensing. In other words, details regarding clients’ names, trip dates, and animal species, sex and location would be eliminated.

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Committee OK's shifting Habitat Montana toward access issues

9 p.m. UPDATE: HB 651 failed the second reading on the House floor by a vote of 47-53, so the bill is probably dead.

In spite of overwhelming opposition, Republicans have resurrected a bill to create a second public-land access specialist and spend sportsmen’s dollars buying land for access that might be poor habitat.

In a specially scheduled meeting Wednesday, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Kerry White, R-Bozeman, brought House Bill 651 up for an unprecedented third round of executive action. Montana already has a public-land access specialist working in the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to improve public access to all public lands, but HB 651 would create another position under the state land board to increase access to state lands using Habitat Montana funds.

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Effort to divert wildlife habitat money fails

An effort to shunt wildlife habitat funds toward a redundant state-land position died Monday, leaving sportsmen relieved but still a bit frustrated.

In an 8-7 vote, the House Natural Resources Committee failed to pass House Bill 651 and then unanimously tabled it. HB 651 would have created a public-land-access advocate who would report to the state Land Board and who was allotted $100,000 a year out of the Habitat Montana program. The Habitat Montana account was created in 1987 to purchase conservation easements and fee title land that provided good wildlife habitat and thus hunting opportunity.

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MOGA bill would reduce permits for resident hunters

A group of outfitters is trying to wrest a few more game permits from the hands of Montana hunters.

On Tuesday, the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association defended its bill, House Bill 568, to ensure that nonresident hunters always get 10 percent of the permits to hunt deer, elk, antelope, mountain lions and eventually black bears. Rep. Kerry White, R-Bozeman, carried HB568, saying it would bring in additional money for Fish, Wildlife & Parks, because nonresident licenses cost more than those of residents. But White’s justification belies the fact that it takes permits away from residents.

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State Outfitters Board in shake-up over reporting requirements

Trouble is brewing in the outfitter world as the Montana Board of Outfitters awaits a replacement for long-time board member Robin Cunningham.

When it met Thursday, the seven-member Board of Outfitters was down to six after the Montana Senate refused on Feb. 24 to confirm Cunningham on a 32-18 party line vote. Cunningham was a year into his final three-year term as the fishing outfitters' lone representative. But he’d sat on the board since 2012 and served an earlier stint from 1994 to 2000.

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