FWP doesn’t oppose Laurel legislator’s lawsuit to make use of crossbows throughout archery season ~ Missoula Present

image_printDoug Krings

Although a legislative push to allow crossbows during archery season has failed, four people, including the legislature who sponsored the law, are suing Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks so they can use crossbows during archery season, which begins Saturday.

On Tuesday, the Missoula Federal District Court held an emergency hearing on whether four men should be allowed to use crossbows during the archery season, September 4 through October 17, with Tim Andrew Daripee, Bruno Friia, David Helmers and Brad Molnar.

Senator Brad Molnar, R-Laurel, backed Senate Bill 111, which would allow people to use crossbows during archery season if a doctor decided they had a limited ability to hold a bow. It wasn’t the first attempt by crossbow advocates to break into the archery season, although crossbows are already allowed during the general season.

But Molnar himself claims to have such a disability, so his urge for crossbows is personal. He labeled the Montana archery hunters liars and fanatics because they were only defending the archery season.

The law was rejected, however, in part because the Montana Bowhunters Association and other organizations regularly change archers for disabled hunters to use. 11 other states also restrict the use of crossbows only during firearms season, including Alaska and Washington.

But the latest lawsuit shows that it wasn’t over for Molnar and the other three.

A week ago, Bruce Fredrickson of Kalispell-based Rocky Mountain Law Partners and Helena’s attorney Christopher Gallus filed a lawsuit against FWP alleging the Americans with Disabilities Act was violated because the four men were denied the benefits of attending the archery season.

The lawsuit acknowledges that SB 111 was defeated, but alleges that “the legislature’s ability to correct an injustice has been excluded”. So they asked the courts to step in to allow the four men to use crossbows; otherwise the men would “suffer irreparable harm” by waiting for the general season to begin on October 23rd.

Molnar isn’t the only Republican legislature involved. According to court documents, Rocky Mountain Law Partners hired Sen. Albert Olszewski, R-Kalispell, with a consulting fee of $ 1,300 an hour to review the four men’s disability claims as Olszewski is also an orthopedic surgeon. In his statement, Olszewski criticized the FWP for not allowing crossbows on a case-by-case basis and blamed the Montana bowhunter organizations.

“My understanding is that the same groups continue to press the Montana legislature to block reasonable arrangements to allow anything but their own program, regardless of what the ADA requires,” Olszewski said in his statement.

FWP’s Legal Adviser Aimee Hawkaluk responded in court on Friday, saying the FWP commission is already considering the four men’s motion and plans to look into the matter at its October 28 meeting. Because of this, the department was unable to act in time for this year’s archery season. Hawkaluk wrote that FWP did not oppose the plaintiffs’ injunction, as timing would mean that the men would have the only option to hunt this year’s archery season.

In the absence of an objection from the FWP, Federal Judge Dana Christensen closed the case on Sunday by saying “The parties in court want exactly the same outcome”: an order from the court forcing defendants to allow plaintiffs to use crossbows Use hunting during Montana’s archery-only season. “

However, on Monday, Rocky Mountain Law Partners requested an emergency hearing as Molnar and Friia had gone to FWP’s regional offices to get their crossbow permits for Monday’s archery season, which court records had denied. So the men wanted Christensen to issue a federal court injunction.

Christensen has scheduled the emergency hearing for Tuesday but has prepared attorneys to explain why his order was necessary.

Montana state lawyers and FWP, as well as FWP spokesman Greg Lemon, have been called to find out the result, but they were not returned by the end of Tuesday.

The archery hunters in Montana are concerned why only four men might get the green light to use crossbows during the archery season and that FWP is not defending the archery season.

According to a statement by Traditional Bowhunters of Montana spokesman Dane Rider, “The TBM hopes the Fish and Wildlife Commission will act in the best interests of the Montana Bowhunters and reject the plaintiffs’ motion.”

Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at [email protected].

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