87-5-909. Sage grouse stewardship account. (1) There is a sage grouse stewardship account in the state special revenue fund established in 17-2-102. Money deposited in the account is statutorily appropriated, as provided in 17-7-502, and, [except as provided in subsection (8),] must be used for the administration of and pursuant to the provisions of this part to maintain, enhance, restore, expand, or benefit sage grouse habitat and populations for the heritage of Montana and its people.
(2) The following funds must be deposited in the account:
(a) money received by the department in the form of grants, gifts, transfers, bequests, payments for credits or financial contributions made pursuant to 87-5-911, and donations, including donations limited in their purpose by the grantor, or appropriations from any source intended to be used for the purposes of this account; and
(b) any interest or income earned on the account.
(3) Subject to subsections (4), (5), [and (8),] the department shall make disbursements from the account to projects approved by the oversight team to receive grants.
(4) The majority of the funds in the account may not be disbursed before the habitat quantification tool has been adopted. The habitat quantification tool must be applied to any project funded after the habitat quantification tool has been adopted. The majority of the account funds must be awarded to projects that generate credits that are available for compensatory mitigation under 87-5-911. When selecting projects to receive funds, the oversight team shall prioritize projects that maximize the amount of credits generated per dollars of funds awarded.
(5) Money deposited in the account may not be used:
(a) for fee simple acquisition of private land;
(b) to purchase water rights;
(c) to purchase a lease or conservation easement that requires recreational access or prohibits hunting, fishing, or trapping as part of its terms; or
(d) to allow the release of any species listed under 87-5-107 or the federal Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1531, et seq.
(6) Up to $25,000 may be paid from the account in each fiscal year for costs associated with meetings of the oversight team.
(7) Any unspent or unencumbered money in the account at the end of a fiscal year must remain in the account.
(8) [At the end of each calendar year, the oversight team shall:
(a) conduct an audit of credits and debits as determined by the habitat quantification tool as used in compensatory mitigation pursuant to 87-5-911;
(b) ensure the balance of credits and debits determined as provided in subsection (8)(a) results in no net loss of habitat; and
(c) direct the department to transfer up to 10% of any surplus balance calculated according to subsection (8)(b) to the state general fund until the total amount of transfers made pursuant to this subsection (8)(c) equals $10 million.] (Bracketed language terminates on occurrence of contingency--sec. 4, Ch. 285, L. 2021; subsection (6) replaced with "Administrative costs paid from the account are limited to $400,000 in each fiscal year" on occurrence of contingency--sec. 5, Ch. 326, L. 2021.)