Legislative Update: Wednesday, Jan. 25

Access for outfitters at issue in Helena

By Freddy Monares

HELENA — Lawmakers will be considering a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for outfitters to access state trust lands through private property, even if they have permission from landowners to do so.

A violation—on the part of an outfitter or landowner—would result in a $500 fine. Rep. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls, characterized House Bill 243 as an equity issue.

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Tom Jacobson

“I mean, these are our lands,” he said. “They’re not for rent, they’re not for sale, they belong to the people, and when we allow outfitters to use those lands when the public cannot, it’s definitely an unfair issue.”

Nicole Rolf, national affairs director for the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, opposes the bill.

“Making a landowner—a farmer or rancher—a criminal, making it a misdemeanor and a big fine like that, for allowing someone to cross their property is a major concern for us,” Rolf said.

The House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee will hear the bill Thursday.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

 

Bill aims at response to haz-mat incidents

By Grant Cole

About 10 people testified Wednesday for a bill that would create a task force to help communities prepare for and respond to incidents involving hazardous materials.

Rep. Denise Hayman, D-Bozeman, who is carrying House Bill 296, said the intent is “to bring the experts together to discuss how we might be better prepared to respond to a disaster, especially in our more remote, rural areas.”

Matt Jones, a spokesman for BNSF Railway, like other opponents, said safety is always a No. 1 priority.

“But we don’t think that creating a new organization to look at these issues that are being undertaken by existing agencies with expertise and jurisdiction over these matters will benefit the public interest,” he said.

The State Administration Committee did not immediately vote on the bill.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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