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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Bill Would Give Counties More Management Over Aquatic Invasive Species

Fisheries biologists checking for adult invasive mussels.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Fisheries biologists checking for adult invasive mussels.

State legislators are considering giving counties greater powers for managing aquatic invasive species.

House Bill 402 would allow counties to adopt local ordinances aimed at preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species, levy taxes for vertebrate and invertebrate pest management and allow counties within the Columbia River Basin to quarantine lakes.

Rep. Greg Hertz, a Republican from Polson, is carrying the bill on behalf of the Montana Association of Counties.

William Barron is the former executive director of MACO. He was one of eight people who spoke in favor of the bill at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing Wednesday.

"It gives us a little bit of local control and it doesn't cost the state a dime."

A representative from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks also spoke in favor.

Six groups expressed support for increasing local enforcement of AIS rules but opposed lumping water-borne pests together with land-based invasive species when it comes to the bill’s optional tax. The tax would fall on certain land types most likely to be impacted by invasive species.

"It does not make sense to tax ag land for AIS prevention," says Liv Stavick, who is with the Montana Farm Bureau.

Bill sponsor Greg Hertz said he’d look into questions about the tax and possibility of penalties being doubly imposed before the bill’s next reading.

The committee took no action on the bill Wednesday but did pass House Bill 608, which would require mandatory decontaminations for all wakeboard-style boats, on for a full House vote.

Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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