Two weeks from today, we will know what lies ahead for the future of Montana. The citizens of this state will have elected those they want to represent them, and to oversee the economics, health and welfare of this great state. At their mercy will once again be the tremendous wildlife resources of Montana. In the hands of a new Governor, many new state senators and representatives, and a newly appointed Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Commission will lie the power to take charge of out of control predator populations, and to begin the long road to restoring devastated elk, moose, mule deer and other big game herds up and down the entire western one-third of the state.
Montana’s sportsmen and sportsmen groups are now seriously wondering whether or not those elected officials they do put into place, and their appointees, will step up to the plate and make such efforts a top priority. Or, will they will continue to follow the lackluster do-nothing approach of current Governor Brain Schweitzer and his agenda driven FWP Commission Chairman and bobble-head board of commissioners? Fresh in the minds of many Montana hunters and anglers is also how poorly the state’s 62nd Legislature faired in getting predator control legislation passed, and how an ego driven Governor vetoed the largest number of bills in Montana history.
One casualty of that legislative effort was SB414, known as the Montana Wolf Control Act. That bill was requested by MT Senator Joe Balyeat (R-Bozeman), and was sponsored by MT Senator Chas Vincent (R-Libby). This well publicized bill passed the Senate on March 29, 2011 with a vote of 30 to 20. It then went to the House of Representatives, where on April 12, it failed by a vote of 51 to 49. This angered Montana sportsmen and citizens so much that state representatives were flooded with phone calls and e-mails, demanding that a reconsideration vote be conducted. It was, and the very next day the bill was read again, and this time passed by a 62 to 38 vote. Another reading was held again on April 18, and the bill passed again by a slightly narrower margin, with a vote of 53 to 47. Unfortunately, the Montana Wolf Control Act didn’t fare so well during the final reading on April 19, when it failed with 54 “No” votes and 45 “Yes” votes.
What really failed that day were elected officials who failed to truly represent the wants and needs of their constituents. One of those who worked hardest to see that this piece of legislation was defeated was MT Representative Mike Phillips (D-Bozeman). Not only did he vote against SB414 during all four votes, he also convinced others to change their votes in order to see that this bill never got the chance to reach the Governor’s office. What was his incentive for doing so? His day job is serving as the Executive Director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund. This Montana Representative was just giving his pro-wolf boss, Ted Turner, exactly what he was paying for – a voice in this state’s politics. Now Phillips is running for the senate seat for MT Senate District 33, which is pretty much downtown Bozeman.
Other state representatives who voted against SB414 during each House vote were: Dick Barrett (D-Missoula); Tony Belcourt (D-Box Elder); Bryce Bennett (D-Missoula); Carlie Boland (D-Great Falls); Pat Connell (R-Hamilton); Virginia Court (D-Billings); Robyn Driscoll (D-Billings); Ron Ehli (R-Hamilton); Tim Furey (D-Milltown); Steve Gibson (R-E. Helena); Edward Greef (R-Florence); Betsy Hands (D-Missoula); Ellie Boldman Hill (D-Missoula); Cynthia Hiner (D-Deer Lodge); Brian Hoven (R-Great Falls); Chuck Hunter (D-Helena); Margaret MacDonald (D-Billings); Gary MacLaren (R-Victor); Sue Malek (D-Missoula); Bill McChesney (D-Miles City); Edith McClafferty (D-Butte); Mary McNally (D-Billings); Robert Mehlhoff (D-Great Falls); Mike Menahan (D-Helena); Pat Noonan (D-Ramsay); Jean price (D-Great Falls); Michelle Reinhart (D-Missoula); Diane Sands (D-Missoula); Trudi Schmidt (D-Great Falls); Jon Sesso (D-Butte); Frank Smith (D-Poplar); Carolyn Squires (D-Missoula); Kathleen Williams (D-Bozeman); and Franke Wilmer (D-Bozeman).
When pressured by their constituents to reconsider their “Nay” votes during the first read of the bill by the MT House of Representatives, the following 13 legislators changed their votes to “Yea”: Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip); Liz Bangerter (R-Helena); Rob Cook (R-Conrad); Steve Fitzpatrick (R-Great Falls); Kelly Flynn (R-Townsend); Galen Hollenbaugh (D-Helena); Walter McNut (R-Sidney); Mike Milburn (R-Cascade); Mike Miller (R-Helmville); Ken Peterson (R-Billings); Sterling Small (R-Busby); Wayne Stahl (R-Saco); and Max Yates (R-Butte). Of those 13 who felt the wrath of the citizens they represent, and changed their vote in support of S.B. 414, 12 were Republican, and only 1 was a Democrat. However, when it came down to the final vote on this bill, during the Third Reading, just three of these representatives stayed true to the wishes of their constituents – Kelly Flynn, Mike Milburn and Sterling Small. The other 10 sold out the sportsmen of this state.
In the end, it probably did not matter. Even if the Montana Wolf Control Act had passed the House of Representatives, chances are very slim that Governor Schweitzer would have signed it into law. In a childish manner just to show everyone that he is in full charge of the state, at the end of the 62nd Legislature, this ego driven Democratic governor held a “Branding Party” on the steps of the State Capitol Building to veto 21 Republican sponsored bills which had made it to his desk. Since Republican Senator Joe Balyeat had requested SB414, and that Republican Senator Chas Vincent had been the primary sponsor of the bill, it’s pretty clear that Schweitzer would have vetoed this bill as well.
Across Montana, sportsmen are ecstatic over the fact that Brian Schweitzer has termed out, and cannot seek re-election. Under his near eight year watch, wolves and a growing grizzly population have destroyed more than 50 years of big game conservation efforts in at least a third of the state – and his MT FWP not only allowed that destruction to take place without strongly challenging the federal agency that brought Canadian wolves into Montana, they also purposely covered up the degree of wildlife losses and the true number of wolves and grizzlies in this state. Since that agency falls under the Executive Branch of the state’s government, it means it receives its marching orders right from the top…directly from Governor Brian Schweitzer. Angry sportsmen are expected to force whoever is elected governor to launch an investigation to ferret out politicians which have received payoffs from radical environmental groups, and to also hold Schweitzer responsible for his role in this disaster.
They know that governor cannot be Democrat candidate Steve Bullock. As the State’s Attorney General during Schweitzer’s second term in office, Bullock has turned a blind eye to the corruption that taints the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Project. Bullock’s campaign is primarily financed by fellow lawyers and the same environmental groups which have bought their way into this state’s politics. Since his election to office in 2008, he has done as close to nothing as possible to challenge the right of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to dump non-native Canadian wolves into Montana, which has been a direct violation of the Endangered Species Act.
Bullock also allowed Schweitzer to violate legislated law by freely moving wild buffalo in complete disregard to regulations set forth by the state’s legislature, and Montana’s current Attorney General has failed to hold Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks accountable for the manner in which it has repeatedly lied to the sportsmen of the state by seriously downplaying the true number of wolves in Montana – and hiding the impact that all predators have had on big game herds in the state’s mountainous western regions. Even as he campaigns for the governor’s seat, Bullock avoids the wolf issue, as if it does not exist. Many voters now fear that if elected, Bullock will continue with Schweitzer’s do-nothing style of leadership.
Not so with his Republican opponent – former U.S. Congressman Rick Hill. Hill fully addresses all the usual promises made during any run for office, from the economy to property owner rights to education and the safety of residents. He also goes a giant step farther than Steve Bullock, openly spotlighting how the previous administration and Fish, Wildlife and Parks have truly sold out the sportsmen of this state. Schweitzer and Bullock have repeatedly buckled under federal bullying to allow growing wolf populations to spread freely and make an ever larger negative impact in huntable big game populations, and to permit the U.S. Forest Service to continue denying access to millions of public acres in order to allow grizzly bear populations to expand rapidly – even though the state is currently home to nearly three times as many of the bears as what the U.S. fish and Wildlife Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks acknowledge.
Thoroughly cover Bullock’s entire “Steve Bullock for Montana Governor” website and you will not find one mention of his plan to put an end to predator caused wildlife losses and the loss of hunting opportunities. That’s because he doesn’t have one. Hill devotes an entire page of his website to wolf management, which basically calls for Western Montana to be designated as an “Aggressive Wolf Management Zone”, and for both Central and Eastern Montana to become a “No Tolerance Wolf Zone”. His plan would allow wolves to be managed at levels much closer to what Montana residents agreed to before USFWS began dumping a larger and more aggressive non-indigenous subspecies into the Northern Rockies. Hill also shares his plan for a revamped Fish, Wildlife and Parks – which would be devoted to working closer with Montana’s sportsmen and private landowners to enhance wildlife populations and hunting opportunities.
As election day grows near, voters in Montana know that “Business As Usual” for the past eight years has horribly impacted life in “Big Sky Country”. Many are wondering if Montanans will stand tall when they cast their ballot to begin the turnaround that’s very much needed in this state, or will they allow the loss of what makes Montana…well, Montana… become the new status quo for the new future of this state.
For things to change direction will first take electing a governor with the backbone to stand up to federal bureaucrats, and it will take a state government that will challenge the radical environmental groups which have one true goal – to force Montanans off the land. It will also take purging our political ranks of bought and paid for state representatives and senators who owe more allegiance to power hungry and ego driven agendas, such as the Turner Endangered Species Fund, than to the citizens they are supposed to represent. November 6, 2012 could very well be the most important day in the history of Montana – and the Montana way of life. – Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH
To Learn More About Rick Hill’s Wolf Management Plan, Go To This Link -
For More On His Plans To Turnaround MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Go To -
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