EQC Mulls Legislative Proposals and Funding for Several State Programs - news.mt.gov

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EQC Mulls Legislative Proposals and Funding for Several State Programs

Wednesday, May 16, 2018/Categories: Legislative Branch/Tags: Environmental Quality Council , Fish Wildlife & Parks , Montana State Library , Aquatic Invasive Species , game birds , bird dogs

The Environmental Quality Council will scrutinize funding options for several state programs at its May 29-30 meeting.

The EQC will consider whether off-highway vehicle (OHV) and snowmobile recreation programs are getting their fair share of gas taxes paid by those users. According to a 2014 report, the snowmobile program receives about 65 percent of the estimated gas tax revenue generated by snowmobiles. The OHV program gets about 30 percent of revenue generated by OHVs. The proposed bill drafts (OHV1 and snowmobile1) dedicate all of the revenue to those programs.

The meeting starts at 9:45 a.m. May 29 in room 317 of the Capitol in Helena.

The EQC will also weigh whether gas taxes generated by motorboat use could fuel aquatic invasive species (AIS) programs. Currently, fees on anglers and hydroelectricity fund AIS work in Montana. But those sources sunset in the next two years. By September, the EQC will decide whether to recommend to the 2019 Legislature that those sources be tapped again, that it look at others such as motorboat gas tax revenue and watercraft fees, or some combination thereof.

Debate will ensue over options to fund the Natural Heritage Program within the Montana State Library. The program collects data for flora, fauna, and biological communities in the state. Options include a fee on applicants for environmental permits (LCNHP1), a fee on state agencies that use the information (LCHP3a), and a portion of the bed tax (LCNH2a, LCNH2b).

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 EQC again visits proposed bird dog regulations. The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (DFWP) issues permits for field trials. Current law does not allow birds to be killed during training and requires training be more than a mile from a nesting area.

Option 1 eliminates dog training regulations. However, DFWP would still issue field trial permits. The department could:

  • deny the permit if the field trial wouldn't be in the best interest of game birds; or
  • condition the approval of the permit to protect birds.

Game birds used in the field trial would need to be tagged or marked. The taking of an untagged game bird during a field trial must be reported immediately to the department if:

  • it is outside of the established season for the untagged game bird; or
  • the person taking the game bird is not licensed to take that species.

The second option contains the same field trial requirements as Option 1, but also requires the tagging or marking of birds for training. The taking of a bird during training also requires reporting.

The meeting is streamed live at www.leg.mt.gov and will be broadcast on Television Montana (TVMT). 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 jkolman@mt.gov

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