Wolf bill voted down by Senate


HELENA – A bill that aimed to give Montana sole authority over wolves in the state was voted down on the Senate floor Tuesday, with several senators expressing fear that passing the bill could derail the current delisting effort.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joe Balyeat, R-Bozeman, tried to beat back those fears, saying the bill clearly states that the policy wouldn’t take effect if delisting goes forward. But the proposed law would give the state leverage if delisting doesn’t happen. If put into action, the plan would void all management agreements that Montana has with the federal government.

“We’ve heard these promises and they’ve never, never come to pass,” Balyeat said.

However, the Senate voted against the bill 27-23, with five Republicans joining Democrats in opposition to the bill. The bill had been approved in two committees before coming to the floor for a vote.

Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, who said he has worked on crafting Montana’s wolf policy to take over from the federal government since the Racicot administration, opposed the bill.

“We think anything that gets us off that goal, takes our eye off the ball, is the wrong thing to do,” he said.

Congress on Tuesday agreed to match up to half the funding states pay landowners for livestock killed by wolves and efforts to prevent losses.

It was good news for Montana farmers and ranchers, where the state program responsible for covering those payments is broke, said George Edwards, coordinator Livestock Loss and Reduction and Mitigation Program.

The provision was contained in a public lands bill with 171 provisions including the creation of wilderness in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

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