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3/15/2021 Legislature Report – Parks & Recreation

Your Montana Trails Coalition and Montana Trails, Recreation and Parks Association keeps you informed and up-to-date about bills in the legislature that affect recreation and parks programs.  This past two weeks have been extremely busy at the Capitol.  Transmittal was March 3 which means general bills must be transmitted to the other chamber from which they originated.  April 1 is Transmittal of Appropriation and Revenue Bills & Bills Proposing Referenda.

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.  Heard February 9, Joint Appropriations Subcommittee, Natural Resources & Transportation. Passed executive action.  Hearings ongoing in House Appropriations Committee.

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.  Heard February 2, Joint Appropriations Subcommittee. Passed executive action.

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.  Initiative I 190, voted on and approved by the public in November 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

Governor Gianforte proposal for the use of these funds include:

Substance abuse: $12 million = 66.67%

General Fund: $6 million = 33.33

Governor Gianforte has heard from many of you and he said in a statement yesterday that he will request some of these funds to go for conservation and recreation.  If you haven’t yet, please contact the governor and ask him to accept the will of the public and dedicate $49.5% of the I 190 funds to recreation, parks, conservation, and Habitat Montana!

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, illuminated lamps, 5’ safe passing distance.  Passed 3rd reading on House Floor February 4, transmitted to Senate.  Heard February 18 in Senate Highways and Transportation Committee.  Many opponents and passage questionable without amendments.

HB 272 (Representative Stromswold): Would allow a person to register a vehicle for up to 5 years.  Could have a negative impact on $9 optional fees collected for State Parks operation and maintenance, Trail Enhancement Grant Program, Fishing Access sites, and specialty license plates that partially fund non-profit organizations.  Passed second reading in House February 18, referred to House Appropriations Committee and heard February 22.

HB 281 (Representative Gunderson): Revise laws related to bicycles, especially E-bikes.  Passed the House on a vote of 74 – 26.  Passed Senate Highways and Transportation Committee and will go for 2nd reading on the Senate floor soon.  Includes the description of the three classes of electrically assisted bicycles.

An electrically assisted bicycle may be ridden, with the motor in operation, in places where bicycles that are solely human-powered are allowed, including but not limited to streets, highways, roadways, bicycle lanes, and bicycle or shared-use paths.

A local authority or state agency having jurisdiction over a bicycle or shared-use path may prohibit the motorized operation of a class 1 or class 2 electrically assisted bicycle on that path if it finds that a restriction is needed for safety reasons or compliance with other laws or legal obligations.

A local authority or state agency having jurisdiction over a bicycle or shared use path may prohibit the motorized operation of a class 3 electricity assisted bicycle on that path.

Question and concerns: 1) Some prefer they be called electrically motor assisted bicycle.  2) Questions remain about their use on non-motorized trails in the backcountry and backcountry urban interface and inconsistency with federal agency definitions and processes.

HB 352 (Representative Hinkle): Would require public access as part of conservation easements that use public funds.  Tabled February 23 in House Fish, Wildlife and Parks committee.

HB 420 (Representative Kerns): Would require Montana Department of Transportation to adopt administrative rules defining and specifying standards for designated bicycle lanes and routes.  Tabled February 24 in House Transportation Committee.

SB 38 (Senator Gauthier): Would revise the Summer Motorized Grant Program to allow safety and ethics education grants, rename the snowmobile trail pass to the winter trail pass and include dog sleds.  Passed Senate February 1.  Scheduled for 3rd reading on House floor March 15.

SB 115 (Representative Regier): Would clarify the approval process for land-related acquisitions by the department of fish, wildlife, and parks; requiring certain easements to be approved by the board of land commissioners.  Passed Senate February 3, Passed House Fish Wildlife & Parks Committee February 18, returned to Senate with amendments. 

HJ 15 (Representative Marler): Joint resolution that the Montana Legislature proclaims the recognition of the 1,000 mile Montana Trail 406 using existing trails and its positive impacts on local economies and recognize benefits of connected trail networks across Montana.  Passed House and transmitted to the Senate, hearing March 15 in Senate Natural Resources Committee.

SJ 5 (Senator Webber): Joint resolution urging the National Park Service to include Sacagawea on signs for the Lewis & Clark Trail.  Passed Senate February 22, transmitted to House.  Heard in House Transportation Committee March 10.


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.  This bill will eliminate most of those.  Passed House January 14, passed Senate February 5.  Signed by Governor February 18.

HB 410 (Representative Olsen): Would require noxious weed management programs for certain state lands to seed or plant native plants friendly to animal pollinators, reimburse persons for damage to apiaries; authorize pollinator specialty license plates; authorize distribution of funds to county weed districts for pollinator habitat.  Hearing March 16 in House Agriculture Committee.

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.  Tabled in Senate Taxation Committee February 12.

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; require changes to the board; require purchase of a wildlife conservation license for certain land use.  Heard February 19, Senate Natural Resources Committee.  Opposed by Trout Unlimited, Montana Wildlife Federation, Board of Outfitters and others.  Many amendments necessary.

SR 60: Confirm the Governor’s new appointees to the Board of Parks and Recreation including Jody Loomis, Russ Kipp, Kathy McLane.  Current Members: Scott Brown, Mary Moe, Jody Loomis, Russ Kipp, Kathy McLane.

Interested in the latest on important legislation impacting front country parks, trails and recreation access?

Join Diane Conradi and I on Facebook Live at the Montana Access Project page at: this Thursday, March 4th, at 11AM and every other Thursday at 11 AM.  We will be hosting these events until the end of April.  Tune in to hear the latest legislative updates and in-depth analysis from long time experts tracking the outdoor recreation issues you care about!

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