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Dangerous Ballot Initiative, I-161, Threatens Wildlife Management and Montana’s Hunting Future!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Educate your fellow Montanans! Paid signature gatherers are expected to be out in force on election day, Tuesday, June 8th.  I-161 is a ballot initiative popularly known as the Kephart Initiative.  It proposes to eliminate all outfitter-sponsored licenses currently available in Montana.  These outfitter-sponsored licenses would be reallocated to non-residents through the general draw system and significant price increases would be imposed on all general non-resident draw tags.  

Initiatives pertaining to hunting laws, by their very nature, politicize the state’s wildlife management policies.  This is contrary to the North American Model of Wildlife Management that has made Montana’s wildlife populations and rich ecosystems the envy of the world.  Laws related to hunting and wildlife management strategies should be firmly rooted in science, not driven by a wealthy few who can produce the most emotionally-appealing 30-second television commercial during an initiative campaign.  For this reason, NRA has always opposed “ballot box” wildlife management. A wide array of groups are standing up with the NRA to oppose this precedent-setting initiative, such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International. 

With regard to the specific provisions, Kephart’s I-161, through its significant fee increases, threatens to make the same monumental mistake made in Idaho last year.  Non-resident license fees there were increased with expectations of proportional increases in revenue.  The move backfired, resulting in a $1 million shortfall because fewer hunters purchased the more expensive licenses.  With already poor budget conditions, a similar shortfall in Montana will jeopardize important wildlife management and conservation projects ultimately detracting from hunting opportunities for all hunters in the state. 

Kephart Initiative paid circulators are currently out aggressively pursuing signatures to qualify for the ballot.  Reports suggest that they are being anything but honest when describing the measure to the Montanans they target.  They mention what might sound politically popular but do not discuss the potential costs.  This is why the state legislature and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks hold public hearings when determining laws and regulations.  No similar forum is allowed with regard to initiatives and this is one of the primary things that make them so dangerous. 

For this reason, it is up to NRA members to inform your friends, families, co-workers and fellow hunters about the folly of signing Kephart’s I-161 ballot initiative!  Your voice and efforts today will make a tremendous difference.  Make no mistake about it, the anti-hunting radicals are watching.  If I-161 succeeds, they will learn from Kephart’s methods and try to circumvent the standard policy-making system and public processes that have stymied them through the years and use deceptive 30-second sound bites to advance their radical agenda.                

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