Some interesting things happened in my sub-committee this week so I will concentrate on them this article. The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) was the main focus of the committee so we spent three days with them and their budget. Our main job is to set the budget for the departments that come before us. The work of actually setting the budget come when we do what is called executive action and that happens after we have heard all the departments.
One of the quite interesting programs in the forestry division of DNRC is called the Good Neighbor Authority. A quick description of the program is that is a way for the Federal government, State government, County government and local groups to work together in order to best manage forested lands. Since western Montana had a lot of federal land that is forested it is a big change for the federal government to be willing to let the State be involved with them to manage federal property. The program was authorized in the 2014 budget and again in the 2018 budget.
The cooperation between the levels of government has been very successful. Montana’s program is based somewhat on what has been done in Idaho for a couple years. My committee spent the morning getting the low down on how the program works and where the money is being spent. The DNRC has asked for 8.5 additional FTE’s to expand the program and since FTE’s translate into dollars, we were quite attentive to the information. The reports and examples of successes were very convincing and the department will probably get their ask for additional people.
Earlier in the week we had discussions on conservation districts and that brought out the public comment big time. About two hours were taken by public comment and around 30 people testified. Without exception, the testimony was positive for the job DNRC has done with the districts. Of course, they want more money, but everyone does when they come before a budget committee.
The other very interesting work session was on the use of Pittman-Robertson money and how it was going to be used to fund game wardens. This was an important enough discussion that the top bureaucrat from Washington, DC and the top decision maker from Denver came for the meeting. Their input added greatly to the knowledge base of the committee and will, most-likely, lead to a solution to the options that will work for everyone.
A lot of other interesting things happened this week, including bills on the floor and votes taken but I wanted to cover what my committee did. If you want to get ahold of me, my email address is on the CONTACT PAGE – or call or text me at 951-6764. Your input is appreciated. It is an honor to represent you in the House of Representatives. Thank you.