BUTTE — A bill that would have required the state to develop a management plan for wild horses imported into Montana was voted down in committee Tuesday.
Senate Bill 402, sponsored by Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings, was defeated 6-5 by the Senate Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Committee.
Besides a management plan, the Montana Department of Livestock also would have charged a fee of $100 on each imported horse or burro.
Van Dyk had worked with two Republicans, Sen. Taylor Brown of Huntley and Sen. Eric Moore of Miles City, in crafting the bill.
"We talked about how this might happen," Van Dyk told the Montana Standard on Tuesday evening after the vote. "We introduced this at a late date, but we elevated the issue and it's far from over. Hopefully, we can pick it up at the next session. These things take time."
The Bureau of Land Management completed the transfer of 700 wild horses last month to the Spanish Q Ranch outside of Ennis. The Spanish Q is the first long-term holding facility for wild horses in Montana, but it was delayed for a number of years in no small part because of resistance of neighboring ranch owners about the horses' effect on irrigation, livestock, and wild life.
The bill attempted to address some of those concerns, but it was up against a tight timeline. If the bill had passed the Senate committee, it would have had to pass through the full Senate and make it to the House by Friday. As day 71 of the current legislative session, Friday is the deadline for a revenue bill to be presented in both the Senate and the House.
Some committee members expressed concern about the $100 import fee, even though the bill was stripped of a retroactive clause that would have covered the 700 horses already at the Spanish Q.