06-01: Administrative Penalties for 310 Violations

WHEREAS, Montana’s 58 Conservation Districts are charged with administering the Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Action of 1975 (hereinafter “310 Law”); and

WHEREAS, the existing 310 Law provides criminal and civil penalties and court supervised restoration for 310 violations; and

WHEREAS, the penalty provisions of the 310  Law do not refer to an administrative penalty, nevertheless, the legislative history of Sec. 3, Ch. 470, L. 2003, which amended the penalty provision of the 310 Law, clearly contemplated the implementation of the civil penalty through the Conservation District; and,

WHEREAS, the penalty provisions of the 310 Law state that “a conservation district may work with a person who is subject to a civil penalty to resolve the amount of the penalty prior to initiating an enforcement action in justice court to collect a civil penalty” thereby recognizing that a Conservation District has authority for administrative management of violations; and,

WHEREAS, the experience of Conservation Districts that have implemented the penalty provisions of the 310 by directly imposing penalties find it creates an efficient, timely, and effective tool for addressing and resolving certain 310 violations, after consideration of all appropriate factors, and find it acts as deterrent to future violations of the 310 Law; and,

WHEREAS, the adoption of a set of rules implementing the penalty provisions of the 310 Law by direct  imposition of penalties by the Conservation Districts and/or a legislative amendment defining that civil penalty may be directly imposed by the Conservation Districts would resolve any potential legal challenge to a Conservation District’s authority to directly impose penalties;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Montana Association of Conservation Districts is directed to work with the necessary entities—including the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Conservation District Bureau and/or the 2007 Legislative Assembly, if necessary—to clarify that the Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act (SB-310 Law) allows Conservation to assess administrative penalties.