Environmental Quality Council

EQC to Make Final Funding Choices for Fire Protection, Aquatic Invasive Species, and Recreation

Committee: Environmental Quality Council
Author: Joe Kolman
Posted on September 4, 2018

Image of Whitefish River

The Environmental Quality Council closes out the interim on September 12 and 13 with decisions on whether to change funding mechanisms for fire protection, aquatic invasive species (AIS), and recreation programs.

The meeting starts at 10 a.m. on September 12 in Room 317 of the Capitol. Public comment can be submitted in writing through Sept. 11 and in person during the meeting.

The EQC is reviewing three bill drafts for assessing fire preparedness fees on either a per parcel or per acreage basis. LCfpa2 includes municipalities; LCfpa1 and LCfpa3 do not. Currently, only certain landowners in forested areas pay such fees, covering about a third of preparedness costs, including training, equipment, and advanced placement of personnel. Each of the bill drafts assess a broader contingent of landowners.

The EQC will consider finishing touches for its AIS funding package, which in its current form draws about half of the funding from fees on watercraft, anglers, and migratory bird hunters and half from the general fund. As passed by the 2017 Legislature, the state now pays for AIS programs with $3.7 million in hydroelectric fees and $3 million in angler fees. Both funding sources are due to sunset in the next 18 months. The EQC proposal keeps the angler fees, but cuts the price for nonresidents in half, and lets the hydroelectric fees expire.

The EQC will also decide whether to move forward two proposals to provide more money for off-highway vehicle (OHV) and snowmobile recreation programs within the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP). According to a 2014 report, the snowmobile program receives about 65 percent of the estimated gas tax revenue generated by snowmobiles. The OHV program gets about 30 percent of revenue generated by OHVs. The proposed bill drafts (OHV1 and snowmobile1) dedicate all of the revenue to those programs.

The regulation of bird hunting dogs is of ongoing interest. In July, the EQC voted to remove language from a bill draft that prohibited field trials during a designated nesting season on public land. Field trials are contests to evaluate the skills of bird hunting dogs. The council added language to the proposal that further defines field trials as contests that are affiliated with a national organization.

In September, the EQC will review several legislative proposals put forward by the Department of Environmental Quality, FWP, and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

The council will also receive updates on road closures on state lands, carbon sequestration, sanitation review for subdivisions, wildlife habitat improvement, mountain sheep, and sage grouse.

For more information about the meeting visit the committee’s website: http://leg.mt.gov/eqc  
To submit public comment or ask questions contact Joe Kolman: 406-444-3747 or jkolman@mt.gov