Wolf Management Bills Make Their Way Through MT Senate

HELENA, Mont. (NMB) – The future of the gray wolf in Montana has led to a tug-of-war between conservationists and ranchers over policy proposals in the Legislature, and both sides have claimed victories.

On Thursday, a Senate committee advanced two house bills that would make wolf hunting licenses cheaper. As Shaylee Ragar with the UM Legislative News Service reports, Representative Bob Brown, a Republican from Thompson Falls, is carrying House Bill 407 and House Bill 280, which would reduce the license fee from $19 to $12 and add more of a discount for class AAA combination sports licenses.

“This is an attempt to make your hunting experience a little more affordable and to put more legal wolf hunters out on the range.”

A wide variety of proponents were able to agree on these particular bills, including the Rocky Mountain Stockgrowers Association, The Montana Wildlife Federation and the Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.

However, Brown has two other wolf-related bills that have been stalled or killed in committee. House Bill 551 would have allowed for wolf hunting at night, and failed to pass the House 56 to 44. House Bill 279 would have given reimbursements to trappers for fees incurred while trapping wolves, but failed the Senate 23 to 27, and then was postponed indefinitely.

Senator Jill Cohenour , a Democrat from East Helena, said during debate on the bill that it would not do anything to help mitigate wolf populations, but make trapping a contest.

“It has always been unlawful to essentially have a prize for killing animals in the state of Montana, and this would be an exception to this.”

According to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, wolves were eradicated in Montana by 1930. However, populations have steadily been revived over the years due to conservation efforts. Debates have been flaring over how to manage those populations.

Another bill moving through the Legislature would have an interim committee study the cost and value of grizzly bears and wolves in the state. Senate Joint Resolution 7 asks for a committee to weigh the economic benefits of the animals against the threats to agriculture.

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