GOP Access Bills Move Forward

HELENA, Mont. – A bill to create a “public lands access advocate” will receive a hearing today in the House Natural Resources Committee. This is one of the bills in the Republican package to improve public land access.

House Bill 651, sponsored by Representative Matt Regier, will create a position serving under the Land Board to work to improve access opportunities across Montana on state land.

“Montana is the Treasure State for many reasons and our public lands top that list. This bill will provide an advocate whose focus will be finding opportunities to unlock access to over a million acres of public state land,” Regier stated.

This bill is in part the result of an interim study on public land access, road access and big game hunting in Montana. The study identified over one million acres of state trust land that is currently inaccessible.

Other bills in the public lands access package including the following (including bill status):

• HB 97, Rep. Denley Loge: A bill to expand the Hunter Block Management Program to increase acres available to hunters
Status: Passed the House 99-1. Senate Fish & Game Committee hearing was March 14.

• HB 434, Rep. Kelly Flynn: Will improve wildlife habitat and create a better environment for hunters
Status: Passed the House 96-1. Referred to the Senate Fish & Game Committee.

• HB 498, Rep. Jon Knokey: This bill promotes public access to nearly 1.5 million acres by increasing utilization of the Unlocking Public Lands Program, using incentives for private landowners
Status: Transmitted to Governor on March 24. Passed House 100-0, passed Senate 48-0.

• HB 597, Rep. Alan Doane: Creates the Montana Public Land Access Network, a voluntary grant program that will fund projects that secure public access through private land to inaccessible public land or to enhance existing access to public land.
Status: Hearing in House Natural Resources Committee March 22.

The package of Republican bills to improve access to pubic land in Montana was introduced at a press conference on March 22. Video of the press conference is available here.


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