On Friday, February 22, at 3pm in Room 172 the House Natural Resources Committee of the Montana Legislature will be hearing a bill sponsored by Rep Willis Curdy (D-Missoula). We have reviewed and commented on this critical appropriations bill extensively. We are advocating that the $13 million it appropriates to prevent and contain the spread of aquatic invasive species in our rivers and lakes be funded by the diverse community of stakeholders that are affected by the negative impacts of AIS. Last month the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation estimated that invasive mussels alone could cost Montana $234 million annual mitigation and lost-revenue costs. The three economic sectors that are at greatest risk are recreation, agriculture, and water infrastructure such as hydroelectric facilities. At a minimum, the bill should require funding from the following sources:
- Anglers have and should continue to help pay for Montana’s AIS program. In the previous funding bill, resident and non-resident anglers contributed through an AIS license that was required to hold a fishing license in the state. That provision should remain in the new funding bill.
- Because boats are both a vector for transporting AIS and are at risk of damage because of some AIS, like invasive mussels, boaters should also contribute to this fund. The current version of the bill includes a range of fees assessed on boats depending on whether they are motorized or non-motorized and size. We support this source of funding.
- Hydroelectric facilities face some of the greatest financial risks with the potential spread of AIS, especially invasive mussels. Hydroelectric facilities contributed to the 2017 version of the AIS funding mechanism and should remain in any bill the 2019 Legislature considers. DNRC’s study showed that infrastructure could suffer an estimated $47 million/year impact from invasive mussels.
- According to the same DNRC study, “the direct impact of invasive mussels to agriculture is estimated to be $5.75 per acre foot or $61 million per year.” Investing in the prevention of this risk should be a priority for the agricultural economy and community in Montana.
Tell Legislators that HB411 is critical to containing and preventing the spread of AIS in Montana and ensuring the future health of our fisheries, agriculture, hydropower, property values, recreation, and way of life. Fully funding the AIS program should include investment from anglers, boaters, hydroelectric facilities, and the agricultural community, at the least.
Contact members of the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees about this bill now and ask for their support. You can leave a message for legislators by clicking here or at the Capitol switchboard: 444-4800. If you use the website link, you will need to fill out the form with general contact information, select the appropriate committee, select “for” HB411, and write a short comment. The contact form will only allow you to send the message to one recipient at a time. Please copy your message and submit it to both the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees.
If you have questions or thoughts on this or any other legislative priority, please feel free to contact MTU’s full-time Government Affairs Coordinator, Clayton Elliot, [email protected]