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Conservation Groups Ramp Up Defense for MT Legislative Session

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The Montana legislative session starts Jan. 4. (pabrady63/Adobe Stock)
The Montana legislative session starts Jan. 4. (pabrady63/Adobe Stock)
November 23, 2020

HELENA, Mont. -- Conservation groups plan to defend their priorities in the upcoming Montana legislative session.

Jake Brown, political director for Montana Conservation Voters, said they're used to working with Republican-led legislatures, but the big change will be a Republican in the governor's mansion for the first time in 16 years.

The top priority is Habitat Montana, a program used to protect public lands.

Brown noted the voter-passed marijuana legalization bill lays out funding for programs including Habitat Montana and he doesn't want to see the Legislature change that.

"It's going to be kind of an all-out fight to make sure that the program is one, funded at the levels that it normally is, but then two, that the additional revenue generated from the new marijuana sales in Montana will also be allocated to the Habitat Montana program," Brown explained.

Brown added there is a history of bipartisan support for public lands in Montana. Public lands also support outdoor recreation, which is a large slice of the state's economy and sustains 71,000 jobs each year.

Brown stressed conservation groups plan to hold the line against any environmental rollbacks as well.

"Something that we always are on the watch for is any attempts to weaken Montana's pretty good laws around making sure that corporations clean up their messes, that regular Montanans like me have access to clean air and clean water when we go out to hunt or hike or fish or whatever," Brown remarked.

Brown warned legislating is going to look different in Helena because of the pandemic.

With new ways to interact in the process and a new government, he believes it's more important than ever for Montanans to be engaged.

"Even though we're still in the middle of a global pandemic, hopefully there are going to be ways for members of the public to continue to be involved and just make sure that their voices are heard on important pieces of legislation," Brown concluded.

The 2021 session begins Jan. 4.

Disclosure: Montana Conservation Voters and Education Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on the Environment. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT