Today, the Independent Record offered up an editorial they felt was so important that they placed it on the top of their front page. The editorial rightly calls out the Montana Legislature for removing the MT FWP’s authority to spend ” $849,000 for the Upland Game Bird Program, $10.6 million for Habitat Montana, $460,000 for bighorn sheep habitat and $345,000 for fishing access site acquisition”—all while continuing to ask hunters and anglers to continue paying for the fees associated with the program.
It’s a terrible bill for a number of reasons. It’s not only wrong to ask sportsmen and sportswomen to pay for programs that would no longer be implemented, but reducing funding for programs that increases access to fishing sites and restores habitat for birds and other animals is critical to maintain those populations. Both hunters and those who simply appreciate Montana’s incredible natural beauty would lose out were these programs to be defunded.
So kudos to the IR for calling out the short-sighted decision. There’s just one little problem. Unfortunately, the IR forgot to write half of the editorial—leaving out the crucial detail about the nature of the vote. Other than mentioning in passing that the sponsor of HB 403, Dave Hagstrom, is a Republican, the editorial ignores the fact that the House vote to end Fish, Wildlife, and Parks authority to spend the money was an almost straight party-line vote, with no Democrats voting to support the bill. In fact, despite the vote, the word “Republican” does not even appear in the piece.
When the IR opens with the question “If the Legislature no longer wants to invest in the key habitat and access programs that are so important to Montana’s sporting community,” they’re simply not telling the whole story. It’s not the Montana Legislature that wants to defund these programs; it is the same Republican Party that wants to sell public lands that wants to end programs to manage and acquire more habitat for outdoor opportunities.
It’s encouraging to see the IR criticize another terrible decision by the Legislature, but it’s entirely unfair—not to mention inaccurate—for them to fail to mention that this decision, like so many coming from the House, is the decision of one party who gives lip service to our outdoor heritage while working to undermine it at almost every opportunity.
I’m not sure that the House Republicans can do better, but the IR certainly can.