Hunters who trespass onto private property would see increased fines and after their second offense in five years, a loss of licenses under a bill introduced in the Montana Legislature.
Rep. Denley Loge, R-St. Regis, brought House Bill 108 to the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee on Tuesday. The bill would increase the fine for a first offense of hunter trespass from $135 to up to $500.
On a second offense within five years, the bill mandates loss of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses for a minimum of 12 months.
Landowners frustrated by habitual trespassing are more likely to disallow any public hunting, he continued.
“I feel this is really important for private property rights and will promote better opportunities in Montana,” Loge said. “… The whole intent of this bill is to try to clean up the bad actors.”
The bill saw support from agricultural groups and House Speaker Wylie Galt, who ranches near Martinsdale.
“We feel the penalty has always just been a slap on the wrist,” said Ross Morgan with the Rocky Mountain Stockgrowers Association. “Stiffening the penalties will be a good thing for everybody.”
Galt said he deals with trespassers multiple times per year but that landowners tend to use discretion when it comes to an honest mistake. While fines may not stop an intentional trespasser, loss of license may have a bigger impact.