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Hunting and fishing an issue in Montana governor race

October 04, 2012 at 06:51 AM

The Associated Press

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill promoted his hunting and fishing plan and criticized the state’s wildlife agency Wednesday with the head of the National Rifle Association at his side.

Hill appeared with NRA President David Keene in Great Falls before about a dozen people to field questions on fishing, hunting and public access to land.

The former congressman said he wants the state to take over management of threatened grizzly bears from the federal government and said that there is no room for free-roaming bison in the state.

But he saved his big guns for criticism of the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department. Hill said FWP has engaged in large land acquisitions without setting aside money to manage those lands and damaged relationships with private landowners through its policies, including a more lenient policy toward wild bison that leave Yellowstone National Park.

Hill said he would initiate an audit of the agency’s spending and scrutinize its priorities. Taking away oversight of state parks is an option that he has not fully explored and has not taken a position on, he said.

“We think the agency needs to be focused on managing wildlife,” Hill said.

Hill faces Attorney General Steve Bullock in the Nov. 6 election. Bullock previously has said he would take a look at the agency’s operations and see where its challenges are. But he opposes a blanket ban on more land acquisitions, saying they should be assessed on a case-by-case basis or else the state could lose on some real treasures.

Bullock also has said the state should complete an in-depth environmental impact statement before relocating more Yellowstone bison.

Keene was wrapping up a trip to Montana to promote Republican candidates for office before heading to Colorado and other swing states between now and the election. He said Hill has a strong gun-rights record and that Bullock has opposed NRA-supported bills, such as allowing people to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

Bullock spokesman Kevin O’Brien said Bullock has a strong gun-rights record and noted the attorney general has been endorsed by Montana law enforcement leaders.

“Congressman Hill dreams about having a record on guns as strong as Steve Bullock — in fact he probably dreams about it on cold autumn mornings when he’s tucked in bed and Steve’s out chasing white tails,” O’Brien said in a statement, referring to whitetail deer.

Besides Hill, Keene also has given his support to attorney general candidate Tim Fox and U.S. House candidate Steve Daines.

Fox faces Pam Bucy and Daines faces Kim Gillan for those two open seats.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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