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Commissioners support proposed changes in lion hunting regs

By Michael Howell

While a meeting in Ravalli County about wolves might draw 75 to 100 people, the room was virtually empty last Thursday when the County Commissioners discussed mountain lions. The result of the short discussion was a decision to send a letter in support of Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Park’s recommendations to change the lion hunting regulations.

The proposed correction is for any unsuccessful special lion license applicant to be able to purchase a general lion license valid for any open district statewide during the fall season and also for any open quota areas in Region 2 during the winter season.

Proposed quota changes that affect the Bitterroot Valley include:

• HD 204, 260 & 261 (Bitterroot): decrease total special licenses from 20 to 10; adjust from female lion subquota of 3 to male quota of 5 and female quota of 2;

• HD 240 (Bitterroot): decrease total special licenses from 20 to 10; adjust from female lion subquota of 3 to male quota of 5 and female quota of 3;

• HD 250 (Bitterroot): decrease total special licenses from 20 to 14; adjust from female lion subquota of 3 to male quota of 7 and female quota of 7;

• HD 270 (Bitterroot): decrease total special licenses from 20 to 14; adjust from female lion subquota of 3 to male quota of 7 and female quota of 7

Commissioner Matt Kanenwisher said that they have recognized the problem they have with lions and the diminishing elk numbers and the county’s new policy addresses the large predator problem. He said he supported the changes under consideration.

The commissioners voted unanimously to send a letter of support and a copy of the county’s large predator policy to the State Fish and Game Commission.

Considers speed limit change procedures

The County Commissioners also discussed adoption of a procedure for changing speed limits in the county. Commissioner Greg Chilcott said that new state law allows the County Commission to set speed limits on unpaved county roads. Right now speed limits on unmarked county roads are set by state law at 50 mph. Many people think those speed limits are too fast, especially on dusty dirt roads.

Chilcott is suggesting that a process be adopted similar to the process for forming a voluntary zoning district. He said that if someone petitions to establish a lower speed limit on their road, the commissioners could notify all residents along the road of a public meeting and hold a meeting to make a decision about the proposal.

Chilcott said that one problem with the issue is that people living in a neighborhood or along a road generally want a slower speed limit, but those passing through or using the road to get to work would resist lowering it. The problem is the roads belong to everyone.

Progress made over Fairgrounds parking

The County Commissioners are trying to come up with a plan for parking around the First Interstate Event Center at the Fairgrounds that will meet the permitting requirements of the City of Hamilton. The initial plan was about a dozen parking spaces short of the number required for that size building.

Correspondence over the issue has been testy, but last Thursday when three county commissioners met with the mayor of Hamilton, the Public Works Director, Fairgrounds Manager Deborah Rogala and Fair Board member Ran Pigman, the stickiest problems were resolved.

The county had been under a mistaken impression that the parking spaces had to be located on the Fairgrounds within a certain distance of the building. At Thursday’s meeting it was clarified that the spaces could be located further into the fairgrounds property or even across the street at the ball fields.

Another point of contention was over the requirement for curbs and gutters around the paved parking area. The county saw the curbs and gutters within the parking area to be a tripping hazard. In part the quandary is due to the dual use of the parking lot for the building and at Fair time for large pedestrian crowds.

The result of the meeting was that the Fair Board would take the guidelines as clarified and submit a revised picture of the improvements and run it by the City before preparing engineered plans. They may also develop some engineer drawings for alternatives to the curb and gutter along the building. Some of the options may require Zoning Board of Adjustment approval for a variance.

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