A legislative committee will begin its evaluation of the state parks program at a September meeting in Helena.
The Environmental Quality Council meets Sept. 27-28 in room 172 of the capitol. The bipartisan council is scrutinizing the parks division of the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (DFWP). There are 55 state parks with an annual budget of more than $12 million.
The council has a full plate of other items, including an update on efforts to combat aquatic invasive species, the most well-known of which are invasive mussels. Boat check stations operated around the state this summer. The committee also will hear about efforts to prevent chronic wasting disease from entering the state. The fatal neurologic disease afflicts deer, elk, and moose.
Martha Williams, the director of the DFWP, will explain how the agency revised a rule regarding dog training in upland game bird nesting areas. The council objected to the original rule. A revised version allows dogs to be trained within a mile of a nesting area as long as there are not more than four dogs. More than four dogs are allowed if the training occurs between September and the end of March. Permission is needed for training more than four dogs per day within a mile of the nesting area between April and the end of August. The agency said the rule stems from reports of as many as 60 dogs being trained at a time to the detriment of game birds.
A number of forest management discussions are scheduled including updates on the fire season and implementation of a policy that allows the state to coordinate with the U.S. Forest Service on some timber projects.
The EQC is studying the agency charged with collecting data for the flora, fauna, and biological community types of Montana. The Natural Heritage Program is part of the state library. The information produced is used in a variety of ways, including environmental studies required for projects ranging from new roads to mines. In related work, the council is developing a report on the status of natural resources in Montana. The EQC produced such reports in the past as part of its duties under the Montana Environmental Policy Act.
The EQC is chaired by Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby. Vice chair is Bradley Maxon Hamlett, D-Cascade. Representatives assigned to the EQC are Willis Curdy, D-Missoula; Janet Ellis, D-Helena; Steve Gunderson, R-Libby; Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton; and Kerry White, R-Bozeman. Senators are Mike Lang, R-Malta; Mike Phillips, D-Bozeman; JP Pomnichowski, D-Bozeman; Cary Smith, R-Billings; and Gene Vuckovich, D-Anaconda. Public members are Scott Aspenlieder, Billings; John Brenden, Scobey; Kylie Paul, Missoula; and Matt Vincent, Butte. Patrick Holmes represents the governor.
The meeting is live streamed at http://leg.mt.gov and broadcast on Television Montana (TVMT.) Check local channel listings to find TVMT. For more information about the meeting, including a full agenda, visit the committee’s website or contact Joe Kolman, committee staff.