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1/29/2021 – Parks & Recreation Legislature Report

2021 Legislature Report – Parks & Recreation

TO: Parks and Recreation Friends Groups

FROM: Bob Walker, Montana Trails Coalition and Montana Trails, Recreation & Parks Association

DATE: January 29, 2021

Our 67th Session of the Montana Legislature convened January 4.  We anticipate several bills affecting recreation and parks programs.  We will keep you informed of those bills and their status as the session progresses.  We are currently tracking 40 LCs for which there is no current language, most are very general in description, and many will never receive a bill number.

NOTE: SB means Senate bill, HB means House of Representatives bill, LC means a bill draft request has been submitted to Legislative Services.


HB 2 (Representative Jones): This bill covers requested appropriations for operations for all state government including Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) and State Parks.  Included is the state Snowmobile Grant Program and equipment purchase.  Assigned to Joint Appropriations Subcommittee.

HB 5 (Representative Jones): Includes requested appropriations for capital projects for state government including FWP and state parks.  Included are recreation and trail grant programs including Recreational Trails Program, Montana Trail Stewardship Grant Program, OHV Grant programs, Land & Water Conservation Fund.  Assigned to House Appropriations Committee.

NOTE: Governor Gianforte released an operating budget asking lawmakers to divert all future revenue from recreational marijuana sales away from public trail grant programs, state parks maintenance, and the Habitat Montana program which enhances outdoor access and protects working farms and ranches.  This use of these funds was approved in November by the majority of voters in ballot initiative 190.  Governor Gianforte proposal for the use of these funds include:

Substance abuse: $12 million = 66.67%

General Fund: $6 million = 33.33%

Initiative I 190, voted on and approved by the public, would distribute the funds as follows:

Habitat Montana: 37.125% (conservation easements, block management, fee title purchase, fishing access sites)

State General Fund: 10.5%

Substance Abuse Services, Veterans Services, Senior & Disability Services, Local Governments: 10% each

State Parks, Trail Stewardship Grant Program, Nongame wildlife: 4.125 % each

We will keep you posted on the future of these funds!

HB 184 (Representative Loge): Would revise bicycle safety laws including the wearing of high visibility colors, ride on the right had half of the right lane, front and rear illuminated lamps, safe passing distance.  Heard in House Highways and Transportation Committee January 25.

SB 38 (Senator Gauthier): Would revise the Summer Motorized Grant Program to allow safety and ethics education grants, application review and recommendations from the state’s OHV Advisory Committee; rename the snowmobile trail pass to the winter trail pass and include dog sleds.  Passed Senate Highways & Transportation Committee January 21, scheduled for 3rd reading on Senate floor February 1.

LC 756 (Senator Webber): Joint resolution urging the National Park Service to include Sacagawea on signs for the Lewis & Clark Trail.  Bill draft available.

LC 773 (Representative Loge): Draft on hold.  Would establish and require a $20 per biennium summer recreational trail pass for bicycles on public highways, shared use paths and other trails.

LC 1760 (Representative Gunderson): Would generally revise laws related to E-bikes.  Defines electrically assisted bicycles, Class 1, 2 & 3, and does not include them as an off-highway vehicle.  Bill draft available.


HB 2 and HB 5:  See comments under Recreation.

HB 102 (Representative Berglee): Would revise current gun laws and concealed carry locations.  Some parks and recreation districts/agencies/communities/universities currently have special ordinances/rules that control the carry of firearms.  Passed House January 14, vote 63 – 31.  Senate Judiciary Committee action concurred January 29.

SB 77 (Senator McGilvray): Would revise special districts finance including parks and trail districts, transportation districts, safety districts to make it easier for a district to be dissolved but creating problems for long term funding, assessments, bonding.  Hearing held January 15 in Senate Taxation Committee.

SB 153 (Senator Welborn): Would transfer administration of fishing access sites and administration of recreational and commercial use of wildlife management areas to the state parks and recreation board; requiring two board members to be business owners; revising enforcement provisions; revising requirements for construction project approval; requiring improvements at fishing access sites to be reviewed for habitat impacts; revising rulemaking authority; requiring purchase of a wildlife conservation license for certain land use and decreasing its price.  Assigned to Senate Natural Resources Committee.

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