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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Constitutional change would expand hunting, fishing & trapping protections

A neck snare trap.
Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks
A neck snare trap.

State Republican lawmakers are again lining up in support of a change to Montana’s Constitution that could expand existing protections for hunting and fishing and make it more difficult to regulate trapping.

The proposed constitutional amendment would change Montana’s protections for hunting and fishing from an “opportunity” to a “right,” and would include trapping as a protected right.

Versions of the bill have been introduced and gained momentum since 2017. House Bill 372 mirrors a measure brought during the last Legislative Session that failed by three votes, largely along party lines.

The bill drew heated testimony in its first hearing before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday. Proponents included pro-trapping groups and Montanans who said constitutional protection of trapping was necessary to prevent interest groups from seeking to regulate it.

Montana Trappers Association president Matt Lumley said that the amendment would effectively double the amount of signatures required to place an anti-trapping measure on the ballot.

“And all we’re asking you to do is to have the political courage to allow the voters of Montana to decide our future,” Lumley told the committee.

A ballot initiative seeking to ban trapping on public lands in Montana failed by a nearly two-to-one margin in 2016.

The amendment would also establish hunting, fishing and trapping as the “primary” method for managing wildlife in Montana — language many opponents pushed back against. Stephen Capra, with anti-trapping organization Footloose Montana, said the change would give undue power to trappers.

“This is about giving less than half of one percent of our population the power to dictate wildlife policy in Montana,” Capra said, “and that is wrong.” 

This session marks the first time a Republican supermajority will consider the bill. Because it proposes a constitutional amendment, two-thirds of the Legislature must vote to approve it. It must then be approved by voters.

The committee did not take immediate action on the bill.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing
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