Heading to Libby in September for chronic wasting disease study

Policy makers in Montana will learn more sick deer, closing energy facilities, federal land management, and wildlife location data over the next year and may propose laws addressing those and other issues.

The Environmental Quality Council (EQC) is a bipartisan committee within the Montana legislative branch. Created by the 1971 Montana Environmental Policy Act, the EQC generates information, reviews and appraises state programs, conducts investigations and studies, develops and recommends policy, and generally promotes a unified effort in carrying out state policy for the enhancement of the state's natural, economic, and social environments.

At its first meeting between the biennial legislative sessions, the EQC prioritized topic to study.

The EQC, which includes 12 lawmakers and four public members, will examining chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurologic disease that affects deer, elk, moose, and caribou. Last interim, the EQC monitored the state response to outbreaks in southeast Montana. This year, an outbreak occurred in in the urbanized area of Libby in northwestern Montana. Experts from other states will be provide information in the areas of public health, hunter relations, program funding, and other issues. The council will examine other states’ statutes and regulations, analyze the possible economic impact of CWD spreading in Montana, and continue tracking the state laboratory advisory committee.

The 2019 Legislature passed three study resolutions that are assigned to the EQC.

House Joint Resolution 38 calls for an examination of existing state laws related to bonding, decommissioning, and reclamation for energy generation facilities in Montana. The study will also review risks to ground water, surface water, land contamination, and on-site reclamation.

Wilderness study areas, which are federal land in the state set aside to be reviewed for preservation potential, are another area of focus for the EQC. As called for in Senate Joint Resolution 20, the council will examine current and past efforts of stakeholder interest groups and provide a new forum for stakeholders to formulate options for Congress to address disposition of wilderness study lands.

Public information requests for location of fish and wildlife also will be studied. Senate Joint Resolution 30, directs the EQC to debate whether or how the state should protect fish and wildlife location data, including den and nest sites, spawning locations, congregation areas, courtship display grounds, and harvest locations.

The EQC is chaired by Rep. Jim Keane, D-Butte. The vice chair is Sen. Mike Lang, R-Malta.

Representatives on the council are Willis Curdy, D-Missoula; Steve Gudnerson, R-Libby; Bradley Maxon Hamlett, D-Cascade; Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton; and Kerry White;R-Bozeman. Senators are Pat Flowers, D-Bozeman; Steve Hinebauch, R-Wibaux; JP Pomnichowski, D-Bozeman; Carey Smith, R-Bozeman; and Gene Vuckovich, D-Anaconda. Public members are Scott Aspenlieder, Billings; John Brenden, Scobey; Rex Rogers, Boulder; and Matt Vincent, Butte.

The next meeting is Sept. 25-26 in Libby.

Archived video of the June meeting is available at http://leg.mt.gov. For more information contact Joe Kolman, committee staff, at 406.444.3747 or jkolman@mt.gov

The Legislative News.