I guess I was a little surprised about how State Sen. Keith Bales' Senate Bill 31 sailed through the Fish and Game Committee unscathed on a 7-2 vote and appears to be headed for quick passage by the Senate. The bill has to do with the makeup of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission and alters a provision that states, "At least one member must be experienced in and actively engaged in the breeding and management of domestic livestock and own or be a shareholder, partner, owner, or member of a family corporation, family partnership, sole proprietorship, or family trust that owns at least 1,280 acres of land. " The underlined portions are Bales' proposed changes in the law.
What surprises me isn't that the legislation was proposed or that landowners should be represented on the commission. What surprises me is I'd have thought that with Bales opening the door on qualifications, that farmers would have demanded equal footing with the livestock owners in filling that spot on the five-member commission.
Certainly, fish and wildlife affects farmers, too. In many ways, it affects them more. So I'm not sure why livestock owners are more deserving of consideration than farmers would be. As I said, I think it's a good thing to have a strong agricultural voice on the FWP commission. But this bill seems to be wound a bit too tight toward one particular interest group, while not necessarily addressing landowners -- even big landowners -- as a whole. -- mark