By Senator Jennifer Fielder, R – Montana State Senate District 7
It is amazing how difficult it is to get government agencies to use unbiased scientific and legal information when it comes to land, water, and wildlife decisions. Certain science and law are being emphasized while other science and law are being ignored in what appear to be deliberate efforts to restrict peoples use of water and public lands.
It is imperative we use impartial and sound reasoning for these critical decisions that affect nearly every aspect of our lives and environment, rather than allowing selective, politicized bias to prevail.
Last week two legislative interim committees I serve on took a big step in the right direction. Receiving unanimous support from these committees, which are comprised of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, was a major achievement.
Fifty legislators, scores of citizens, and dozens of hours of testimony finally convinced Montanas Water Policy Interim Committee (WPIC) to unanimously seek further analysis of the controversial CSKT Water Compact which will affect water rights throughout western Montana.
Two days later our Environmental Quality Council (EQC) voted unanimously to request state and federal agencies immediately update the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan and other related resource management plans and activities so that policies are based upon todays best available science.
For over a year, Republican legislators and many NW Montana citizens have sought an in depth look at both of these issues.
Last spring, democrat Governor Steve Bullock vetoed legislation which would have required study of the proposed Water Compact. The legislature simply wanted better information about the impacts of the massive water rights agreement before we voted on it. Despite the Governors veto, I and several others successfully persuaded the legislative water policy committee (WPIC) to seek credible scientific analysis of the effects the proposed compact will have on people’s water and livelihoods if it passes. Last week WPIC asked Montana’s Bureau of Mines & Geology to begin assessing the effects of compact.
Regarding Grizzly Bears, agency actions geared toward closing public access and restricting natural resource production on public lands are being justified by very old, outdated technology from the 1980s and 90s.
Last week Montanas EQC and 25 other elected officials requested use of current technology in agency plans and actions related to grizzly bears. Our statement acknowledged the federal government’s 21 year old Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan is outdated and,”is no longer based on the best available science.
We further affirmed,”Important new research is available, recent grizzly bear studies based upon GPS satellite monitoring and DNA analysis offer better quality and more accurate data, and proper planning is critical for bears, people, and resource management.
We concluded,”The current recovery plan, based upon outdated science, continues to impact resource management and limit access and use of public lands, land management options, and our economy.
To demonstrate this point, I shared with the committee an aerial photograph (attached) from a 2005 University of Montana scientific study which reveals over 20,000 GPS locations of 23 grizzly bears in NW Montana. *For a decade or more, state and federal agencies have failed to bring forth current scientific data such as this which may contradict their conclusion that bears avoid roads. *These agencies continue to base their decisions predominantly on a substandard 1997 study of just 2 female bears which used limited technology and underwent no credible scientific peer review.
The outdated reports, touted by agencies as "best available science", are being used to close and obliterate public access roads, restrict recreational activity, shut down natural resource industries, cripple our economy, and allow catastrophic wildfire fuel loads to build up on millions of acres of public lands.
In addition to obtaining unanimous support from the legislative interim committee on this issue, a similar statement signed by 26 legislators, county commissioners, and mayors from throughout Northwest Montana and
North Idaho was submitted last week to the Selkirk-Cabinet/Yaak Sub Committee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC).
Many thanks to those who signed and to my husband Paul, a retired wildlife biologist, for his assistance in researching this issue for us.
For more info on these or any other topics you can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit my web site and sign into my communication network at www.jenniferfielder.us
Senator Jennifer Fielder, R