Senate panel approves federal pay for wolf kills

Great Falls Tribune

Sen. Jon Tester's staff announced Thursday that two of the Montana senator’s bipartisan bills sailed through a Senate committee. One of the bills would reimburse ranchers who lose animals to wolves, and the other would help fund groups which work together to protect Montana watersheds and the state’s fishing heritage.

His staff news release said Tester reached across party lines to write both the Gray Wolf Livestock Loss Mitigation Act and the Cooperative Watershed Management Act, which protects Montana’s water and fishing heritage.

Tester teamed up with Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., to pass the Gray Wolf Livestock Loss Mitigation Act. The measure authorizes federal money for state trust funds to prevent livestock losses and reimburse livestock owners whose animals are killed by wolves.

In Montana, the federal money would boost a live¬stock loss fund which repays Montana ranchers the full market value of killed animals.

"The federal government did a lot of work putting wolves back in Montana," Tester said. "Now it needs to step up to the plate and reimburse ranchers who can’t afford to lose any of their livestock to wolves."

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, cosponsored Tester's Cooperative Watershed Management Act. The bill offers federal grants to small groups of people who agree to work with each other to manage their water resources.

Tester said the measure gives people like irrigators, ranchers, anglers, scientists and outdoorsmen an incentive to sit down together and figure out the best way to manage the streams and rivers they depend on.

"The best way to manage a resource as valuable as water is to bring everyone to the table and work together," Tester said. "This measure will help protect Montana's water and fishing heritage for generations to come."

On Thursday, both measures passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which Tester serves. They will now go to the full Senate for a vote.