This morning the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks committee effectively killed SB425, the bill to revise funding for the Fort Peck warm water hatchery. The Bugle fought this bill long and hard because it would have taken already allocated funding from other FWP hatcheries, projects and staffing around the state. The committee attempted to amend the bill so that the existing funding source, the warm water license stamp, would remain in place and a limited amount of federal money could be used to make up any operation and maintenance shortfalls. General license revenue would not have been used for the hatchery as agreed on at the time of the hatchery’s authorization. Bill proponents were opposed to leaving the warm water stamp in place and allowing a few trout to be raised at the hatchery even though the warm water stamp was created especially for this hatchery. Because of these disagreements hatchery proponents lobbied to have the bill killed. It died on a 9-9 vote in the committee.
Once again, this issue has raised hackles across the state. The debate engendered much heat and very little light. Funding for the hatchery is secure in it’s present form until the next meeting of the legislature so we are assured that this issue will resurface in two years. The impassioned debate only reinforces our conviction that the only way to finally resolve this sticky issue is for both sides to sit down and work out a compromise that will be acceptable to proponents and opponents alike. We need to see some real data from FWP on the needs of the entire hatchery system and using that data, draft compromise legislation that could be acceptable to all parties. Having one side write legislation without input from the other and trying to ram it through the legislature only leads to division among sportsmen who should be working together to preserve and protect all of our valuable resources. Reliving this fight every two years is not good for any angler or sportsman in Montana.