Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Bill to Generate Revenue to Fight Aquatic Invasive Species in Montana

Photo provided by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online
Are you tired of hearing about zebra mussels yet? Tough. It's obvious from the amendments made to SB363 during this legislative session that people are not taking the potential risk for spreading these critters throughout Montana seriously. Here's the bill if you want to look at it yourself:
It's going in front of the House for a third reading today and will probably get passed, which on one hand is a good thing because it means we are trying to generate funds to prevent an outbreak in Montana but when you read this article from the Helena Independent Record, you get an idea of who's driving the bus and the fact that nobody wants to pay for it.
And that's not even considering the fact that the original bill didn't come close to including the biggest stake-holders in paying for prevention.
I know it's a little late because the bill is going to be passed and will not come up again for another two years but here's the deal; as much as I appreciate Sen. Vincent's work on this and appall the short-sightedness and complete lack of responsibility of those fighting to amend the bill, I have to say that our legislators are missing the point here. We have stake-holders and we have high-risk vehicles for spreading these mussels and all the folks belonging to both of these groups should be paying for the efforts for preventing an outbreak. Instead, we are now counting on anglers, the hydro-electric companies, and non-resident bicyclists for all of the funding? Seriously? And as far as hydro-electric goes, who do you really think is going to be paying?
In the original bill, some of the biggest stake-holders and high-risk vehicles were going to have to pony up. Landowners and boaters were going to be charged an annual fee and somehow, some way, that was scrapped and instead, a fee for non-resident bikers was assessed by a legislator that admittedly didn't like the bikers and decided this was a good way to either penalize them or keep them out of Montana all together. What kind of crap is that? What the hell does a bicycle have to do with AIS and why should landowners that are trying to keep their irrigation systems clean and boaters of all people, be exempt from paying for a this? That's LUDICROUS!
So who are the stake-holders? Well, I'm a big one because I make my living on fishing SO...I should be paying. I already have to pay a commercial user fee for the upkeep of Fishing Access Sites, which I completely agree with. I should also have to pay for fighting zebra mussels. Do I want to? Hell no but it is what it is and I'd rather pay a little now than have my livelihood destroyed later. Who else?
BOATERS!!! And I'm not talking just motor boats. I'm talking all boats. We should ALL have to pay to register our boats and watercraft and some of that money should go into the AIS fund because 1.) we're stake-holders and 2.) WE ARE ALL POTENTIAL VEHICLES for spreading invasive species!! But somehow, someone made this group exempt. CRAZY! And you know what? If you're holding an event that brings people and boats in from all over the country, YOU SHOULD HAVE TO PAY! (Yes, I'm talking about the walleye tournaments.)
You know who else is a stake-holder? Home owners on our lakes and rivers. YES, you too should be paying. Why? Because your property value will tank if there is an outbreak of zebra mussels in your lake.
Hotels and lodging? Yep. In fact, all sub-sectors within the tourism and travel industry should be paying. That means the airports as well.
Gas companies? You too.
Restaurants...I think you get the point.
The most disturbing part of this, (and I know I said it but I can't state this enough,) is the fact that boaters and specifically, out-of-state boaters, are exempt. That my friends, is bull-shit and the person that is responsible for this amendment ought to be ashamed of themselves.
Keep 'em where they live...
P.S. The 2017 legislative session is about close and the fishing is getting good so you'll be seeing more fishing and less bitching soon.
P.P.S. Having said that, if we want to keep hearing and reading about the fishing and hunting out here, we all need to be a part of the preservation efforts. Short-sightedness and selfishness will lead to the demise of our great outdoors so before you decide to donate another dollar to the NRA, consider finding an organization that will really fight for your rights to recreate.

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