MTU hosts 2019 guide briefing

The atmosphere was casual and the mood convivial as area guides gathered at the MTU headquarters for the 2019 MTU guide briefing. Montana Trout Unlimited and Trout Unlimited’s Clark Fork Program staff provided policy, legislative and project updates with a focus on information relevant to the guiding community.  Mike Bias, executive director of Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana (FOAM), provided updates on FOAM’s legislative work and the launch of their advanced guide training program, Guiding for the Future. Alec Underwood, Montana Wildlife Federation, gave presentation on the Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Project.

Questions were as plentiful as the beer and pizza.  It was a treat to host such a large group of guides who support conservation work. Thanks so much to Paul Moseley and Ruby Springs Lodge for funding this years guide briefing.  We can’t wait until next year.

If you are a guide and would like to receive updates from Montana Trout Unlimited, send an email to [email protected] with the subject “guide list”.

MT DEQ releases draft EIS for mine proposed on Smith River

If you care about Montana’s Smith River, it’s time to pay attention.  Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality just released a draft environmental analysis paid for by the Australian-owned mining company proposing to build a large mine in the headwaters of the Smith River.  We will be conducting an expert, scientific review of this analysis and the risks this mine poses to water quality, water quantity, habitat and fish in the Smith.  Stay connected with us for more information based on our review and about the public comment period on this critical issue.

Montana Angler owner and American Fisheries Society policy director stand up for clean water in Kansas City

Brian McGeehan, owner of Montana Angler, and Drue Winters, policy director for American Fisheries Society, traveled to Kansas City this week to attend the public hearing on the EPA’s proposal to narrow the definitions of waters protected under the 1972 Clean Water Act.

Brian McGeehan speaks in support for strong protections for our waters, “Our business; and many, many others, relies solely on clean rivers and streams. Without clean water I cannot support my family or the dozens of other families that rely on Montana Angler to make a living.”  Watch the full video of Brian’s statement here

Drue Winters understands how critical clean water protections are for the health of our watersheds,“The rule fails to align with the original intent of the Clean Water Act to ‘to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.’ Further, the rule is inconsistent with more than a half century of scientific research that demonstrates that the integrity of “traditionally navigable” waters fundamentally depends on ephemeral, intermittent, and perennial headwater streams, as well as the many associated lakes, wetlands, and off-channel habitats”.  Watch the full video of Drue’s statement here.

 

Tell your legislator and House and Senate Natural Resource Committee members to SUPPORT HB411, which funds the state’s Aquatic Invasive Species program

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]

MTU Applauds Public Lands Bill Passing the Senate

The United States Senate has voted to advance S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act. Important to Montana, the bipartisan legislation would restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund and enact a mineral withdrawal to prevent new mining claims in the headwaters of the Yellowstone River. The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives where sportsmen and women are urging quick passage.

“This bill is the product of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle working together. Montana’s entire Congressional delegation have been strong supporters of LWCF and Senator Tester and Senator Daines deserve our thanks for helping to finish the job and advance this legislation through the Senate,” said David Brooks, Executive Director of Montana Trout Unlimited. “We will still need to fully fund the program, but permanent LWCF authorization will benefit hunters and anglers for generations to come.”  

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is our country’s premier conservation, fishing and hunting access program, helping to secure fishing access sites across Montana and funding willing-seller public land acquisitions such as in the Tenderfoot drainage, an important tributary to the Smith River in central Montana. Also included in the package is the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, which would prohibit new mining claims on the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park, including the North Fork of Sixmile Creek drainage, which supports an important population of native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.

“Montanans benefit greatly from this legislation, but sportsmen and women around the country are also winners,” continued Brooks. “Dozens of provisions create new wilderness areas, wild and scenic river sections, national conservation areas and minerals withdrawals, making this one of the most important pieces of public lands legislation in a generation. The strong bipartisan support for this proposal from Montana’s delegation and throughout the country is noteworthy and we urge the House of Representatives to act quickly to send the package to President Trump’s desk.”

MTU Gov’t Affairs Director, Clayton Elliott, speaks out on AIS funding

The Montana State Legislature is grappling with funding mechanisms to support aquatic invasive species prevention.  Anglers should be eager to pay their share in fighting AIS. Clayton Elliott states,“Outdoor recreation and the angling community is a significant industry in Montana that stands to lose a lot, just like agriculture, our municipalities, etc, etc. The difference is we’re the only ones being asked to pay. The burden can’t just be on anglers and recreationalists.”

Check out MTPR’s coverage of AIS funding.