MONTANA SB143 HEAVILY AMENDED – The bill initially sought to dedicate 60% of non-resident combination licenses to hunters booking with an outfitter. This legislation has received backlash from the hunting community. However, Montana outfitters have shown support.

SB143 Notes and Bill pdf.

Montana SB143 Summary

This legislation only affects non-resident class B-10 and B-11 licenses. Overall goals of the legislation are to bolster support for Montana rural small businesses (outfitters) and generate additional revenue to Habitat Montana. Additionally, the bill is now heavily amended but the 2nd reading passed as amended (27-yes, 23-no) by Montana Legislature.

SB143 Amendments

Senator Tom Jacobson (D-Great Falls) proposed the amendment. He explained his desire to avoid overturning a Montana voter-passed 2010 initiative that had taken away outfitter-guaranteed licenses.

“If our customers are overwhelmingly telling us this is not a product they would like then why wouldn’t we listen to them?”
– Senator Tom Jacobson (D-Great Falls)

  • Proposed by Senator Jacobson (D-Great Falls) – watch or listen here
  • Montana SB143 no longer calls for a specified percentage of licenses to be sold to outfitted hunters.
  • The Bill does not change what Montana Code 87-2-511 (Annotated 2019) already dictates:
    • …2,000 of the authorized Class B-11 licenses reserved for applicants indicating their intent to hunt with a resident sponsor on land owned by that sponsor…
  • Montana SB143 now calls for a $300 “early draw” for non-resident Class B-10 & B-11 licenses
    • $300 early draw application fee
    • 40% of the available licenses would be available to the early draw; BUT, this can be increased to 50%
    • Early draw application dates would be Dec. 1-31
    • Draw occurs on Jan. 15
    • Each person in an application group must pay the $300 fee
    • All funds generated are for Habitat Montana to “…secure, develop, and maintain wildlife habitat pursuant to 87-1-242.
    • Whatever funds Habitat Montana has not used by the end of each fiscal year “…are available to the department for any purpose pursuant to 87-1-3 201(3).
    • Unsuccessful early draw applicants will be entered into the general drawing

How The Amendment Compromises Needs

In his explanation of the proposed amendments, Senator Jacobson asserted that most people that will use an outfitter will pay the $300 early draw fee. Thus, providing benefit to outfitters for budgeting and planning their season (early draw on Jan. 15) AND generating revenue for Habitat Montana. However, Senator Steve Hinebauch (R-Wibaux), Chair of the Senate Fish and Game Committee, said he had vowed not to make any more bureaucracy and that Habitat Montana did not need more money.

What is Habitat Montana

Habitat Montana’s goal is to “conserve and restore important habitat for fish and wildlife.” They accomplish this goal by providing incentives to landowners conserve habitat on private land and by purchasing conservation easements. Additionally, Habitat Montana can lease and acquire land.

SB143 Support & Opposition

Known DIY western hunter personality, Randy Newberg, has publicly expressed great opposition to what we’re calling the “Montana Outfitter Bill.” Both on a Facebook post and on his podcast, Elk Talk Live! Episode 104.

Montana Outfitters argue the need to stabilize business. Montana Outfitters from across the state believe SB143 will help stabilize their industry, brings millions of dollars into the state and would not affect resident hunters.

If you hunt in Montana, what are your thoughts? As a western hunter, are you concerned of this setting a precedent?

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