A bill is set to hit Montana’s Senate floor this week that could change how wild and feral horses are managed.
In response to the Bureau of Land Management moving 700 onto ranch land near Ennis despite neighboring landowners’ protests, Sen. Kendall Van Dyk (R-Billings) put together a bill that would require Montana’s Department of Livestock to develop a management plan for wild or feral horses placed in Montana and would require the BLM to pay at least a $100 import fee for every horse the BLM brings into Montana. The import fee would have a retroactive applicability date.
According to the bill, the Department of Livestock can’t issue a permit to allow horses on Montana land without reasonable assurance that the imported horses will not cause damage to public or private land, livestock or native wildlife.
If passed, the bill will require the Department of Livestock to consult with Fish, Wild and Parks to develop and adopt a management plan for the release of the horses onto private or public land in the state. In creating the management plan, affected counties will have the chance to voice their opinion at a public hearing.
Facing a tight timeline, the bill is projected to hit the Senate within the next few days and will face the House by April 5. Since April 5 is day 71 of the current legislative session, both the Senate and the House must hear revenue bills in order to meet deadlines.
The BLM moved 700 wild horses onto the Spanish Q Ranch outside of Ennis this past month. The horses come from short-term holding facilities in Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Oklahoma.
“These really aren’t wild horses; they’re feral horses and they are serious problem for the BLM. Using taxpayer dollars to subsidize landowners to board these horses is not the answer. This can lead to serious problems to wildlife, watersheds, and neighboring landowners. Those landowners have been ignored and deserve to be heard,” Van Dyk said in a press release.
Van Dyk worked on the bill with Sen. Eric Moore (R-Miles City) and Sen. Taylor Brown (R-Huntley).