Sage grouse, hunting access, and elk headline January EQC - news.mt.gov

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Sage grouse, hunting access, and elk headline January EQC

Tuesday, December 22, 2015/Categories: Legislative Branch/Tags: Environmental Quality Council

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 22, 2015
From:  Joe Kolman, Environmental Quality Council

HELENA - The Legislative Environmental Quality Council (EQC) meets January 13 and 14 to hear the latest on how state agencies are implementing new sage grouse conservation directives and learn about hunting access programs and elk harvest in Montana.

The meeting begins at 8 a.m. January 13 in room 317 of the Capitol. A full agenda and meeting materials are available on the Council’s website at http://leg.mt.gov/eqc.

The bipartisan EQC will hear from the heads of the Departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources and Conservation, as well as the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation, about their work to implement the Montana sage grouse conservation strategy. The strategy includes stipulations for new development in sage grouse habitat and a competitive grant program for conservation measures. Governor Bullock directed that the strategy be fully implemented by January 1.

Hunting access programs at the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (DFWP) are up for review at the January meeting. Implementation of new game damage hunt rules and elk shoulder seasons will also be discussed.

As part of its study of federal land road management, the EQC will examine harvest rates for elk and deer in relation to roads and inaccessible public lands. The 2015 Legislature passed House Joint Resolution No. 13, sponsored by Rep. Kerry White (R-Bozeman). It tasks the EQC with assessing road closures on federal lands over the last 35 years, identifying landlocked parcels of public land, and evaluating deer and elk trends in relation to limited access to federal lands.

As part of its duty to oversee the work of the Departments of Environmental Quality, Natural Resources and Conservation, and Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, the EQC is evaluating specific programs within each agency. Programs being reviewed in January in addition to hunting access include nongame, threatened, and endangered species management at the DFWP and minerals management at the DNRC. Comments are encouraged from anyone with an interest in the programs.

Montana’s State Parks are also on the EQC agenda. The EQC will discuss recent inventories of facility conditions conducted at 33 state parks, a strategic plan developed by the State Parks and Recreation Board, and policy directives from the Board on land acquisition and transfer and prioritization of resources.

With the Washington State Legislature heading into session in January, the EQC will receive an update on expected legislation to address Washington’s continued use of coal-fired generation from the Colstrip Generating Station.

Representatives assigned to the EQC this interim are Jerry Bennett, R-Libby (Vice Chair); Willis Curdy-D-Missoula; Janet Ellis, D-Helena; Ed Lieser, D-Whitefish; and White.

Senate members are John Brenden, R-Scobey (Chair); Jim Keane, D-Butte; Mike Phillips, D-Bozeman; Rick Ripley, R-Wolf Creek; Carey Smith, R-Billings; and Gene Vuckovich, D-Anaconda. 

The EQC has four public members including Scott Aspenlieder, Billings; Brooke Erb, Dillon; Bert Lindler, Missoula; and Roy Morris, Butte. Tim Baker, a representative of the governor, is a non-voting member.

For more information on committee activities and the next meeting visit the EQC's website:
http://leg.mt.gov/eqc

Or contact Joe Kolman, council staff, 444-3747 or jkolman@mt.gov.

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