The Environmental Quality Council will consider public comment on several reports and legislative proposals at its July 25-26 meeting.
Council debate at the July and September meetings determines if the bipartisan panel will support legislation in the 2019 Legislature. The meeting starts at 10 a.m. July 25 in room 317 of the capitol.
One large funding question the panel is debating is how to fund Montana’s aquatic invasive species (AIS) programs. Currently, hydroelectric fees provide $3.7 million in annual funding and the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass purchased by anglers generates about $3 million per year. The EQC is contemplating a combination of general fund money, gas taxes generated by motorboat use, and angler and watercraft fees to combat invasive species. Hydroelectric fees are not part of the current proposal, which received much public comment over the last month.
Also garnering public comment is a proposal to regulate field trials for bird hunting dogs. Field trials on private land would no longer need a permit from the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (DFWP). Field trials on public land would require a permit and would be prohibited during the designated nesting season. Live birds used in field trials on public land or any bird dog training must be tagged or marked prior to release.
Two proposals would provide more money for off-highway vehicle (OHV) and snowmobile recreation programs within the DFWP. According to a 2014 report, the snowmobile program receives about 65% of the estimated gas tax revenue generated by snowmobiles. The OHV program gets about 30% of revenue generated by OHVs. The proposed bill drafts (OHV1 and snowmobile1) dedicate all of the revenue to those programs and received a number of public comments.
The public also commented on the draft report: SJ 5: Coal in Montana, Changing Times, Challenging Times.
The council continues its discussion of how to pay for fire preparedness. Fees now are paid by only certain landowners in forested areas of the state. The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Forest Service are providing information on initial response to wildfires.
The meeting is streamed live at www.leg.mt.gov and will be broadcast on Television Montana (TVMT). Please check your local channel listings to find TVMT in your area.
For more information about the meeting, including a full agenda, visit the committee’s website or contact Joe Kolman, committee staff. http://leg.mt.gov/eqc
Joe Kolman, 406-444-3747 or firstname.lastname@example.org