Many people were disappointed with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission’s meeting Monday, but none more vocal than the state Senate Fish and Game Committee Chair John Brenden, R-Scobey.
Brenden spoke against FWP’s $4.7 million purchase of the Milk River Ranch during the Land Board meeting last month and at the Best Western Great Northern Inn’s Empire Builder conference room conference call Monday.
When Commission Chair Bob Ream tried to move the meeting out of the public comment portion to let the commission discuss and vote on the purchase, Brenden jumped up to the phone and demanded more time for meeting attendees to speak their minds.
“I think it was a rush to judgment, ” Brenden said this morning. “I think the decision was made before the meeting. I think it doesn’t even come close to passing the smell test. ”
After the vote, as the more than 100 people who came to the hearing began to file out of the room, Brenden announced that he would be looking into litigation to stop the purchase and encouraged other opponents to join him.
“We’re looking into (legal options), ” Brenden said. “Ultimately, I’d like to stop it.
“I think they’re paying too much for it in the first place, but they pay too much for most land they buy. For the value they would receive out of it, they’re not going to get their money out of it. But I’ve seen that before. ”
Brenden said he has seen many issues with the way FWP operates, particularly on the senate committee that he was vice chair of in 2009, chaired during the last session and the will chair again in the upcoming one.
“They just don’t understand money, ” Brenden said. “If it were run like a business, they would get more accomplished. But if you look at their record it’s just buy buy buy buy buy. And they can’t manage the land they have. … There are no toilets, no boat docks, no boat landings, no garbage. Those are all things that are under their auspices that they could be doing a whale of a lot better.
“The way they’re going right now, they are killing the goose that lays the golden egg, and that’s the Montana property owner. ”
As far as his own plans to use his legislative power to fix the issues he sees, Brenden said, “I have no idea. I can’t tell you. ” In past sessions, Brenden has felt that Gov. Brian Schweitzer just “wants to buy land all the time. ”
In the next session, Brenden said he doesn’t know if Gov. -elect Steve Bullock will be any different, but he hopes to make some changes.
“We need to have a good Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency, make it function correctly, ” Brenden said, “and we need good relationships with sportsmen and landowners. ”