Conservation groups pushing for trust funding

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Posted at 5:42 PM, Dec 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-05 10:31:07-05

HELENA — Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition gathered at Capital Sports to ask lawmakers in the next legislative session to set aside millions of dollars to create a permanent trust for wildlife and conservation.

The coalition, which is made up of non-profits and wildlife and conservation groups, wants lawmakers to set aside $200 million for the trust. The trust would fund grants that would be used for the improvement of public and private wildlife habitats across the state.

They say it was modeled after a Wyoming program that's funded over 700 projects since 2006.

Craig Jourdonnais, a wildlife biologist and member of the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition, believes this would be the best use of the budget.

"You would be able to take the interest off of that trust each year to use for improvements in the land productivity, whether it's public, private, tribal lands, people could apply for grants," said Jourdonnais.

Projects might involve making lands more drought or wildfire-tolerant, or fighting invasive species.

"It would generate about, you know, between $4 million and $8 million a year that could be used for just bettering the productivity and the habitat and the landscape of Montana," said Jourdonnais.

In June, the legislative fiscal division released an extensive report that lays out the expected surplus $1.7 billion by the start of the 2025 biennium. It will be up to lawmakers at the capitol to decide which projects get a cut of that money.

With groups like the Montana citizen's elk management coalition starting to make their pitch to lawmakers now...

Retired Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Deputy Chief, Mike Korn, says he believes this can be a step in the right direction for Montana.

"I think that's really important to be able to support a lot of these local groups and a lot of different kinds of organizations in work they're doing, again," said Korn, "ultimately to benefit the land and to benefit Montana."