EDITORIAL: Good luck, hunters — and stay safe

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Snow on the mountain tops, a crisp in the air and the sound of rifles being sighted in at the local range. It can only mean one thing — opening day of big game rifle season is finally here.

General rifle season for deer and elk opens Saturday, and we know many of you will be heading for the hills with family and friends. All signs point toward this year being another good one for area hunters.

According to Fish, Wildlife and Parks, big game numbers stayed strong despite last winter’s deep snowpack. Bull and cow elk ratios across the region are stable, mule deer counts are about average and white-tailed deer numbers are good as well.

So good luck this season, hunters. Be safe, practice bear-aware behavior, follow the ethics and sportsmanship of a good hunt, and have fun out there.

Real ID needs real solution

Montana has been granted another extension to comply with the federally mandated REAL ID Act. This is good news for folks without a passport. For now, a Montana driver’s license is good enough to board domestic, commercial flights and to access federal facilities.

However, the grace period granted by Homeland Security on Wednesday is only valid for another year. This means state officials are on the clock to develop procedures needed to comply with REAL ID, which they say should be in place by January 2019.

Meanwhile, Montana’s congressional delegation continues to push back on the federal law that was passed following the attacks of 9/11 to set standards for state-issued IDs. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines introduced legislation earlier this year to repeal the mandate, calling REAL ID an affront to Montanans’ independence and privacy — important values to all of us in the Treasure State.

We’re sure Montana’s decade-long tangle with REAL ID will heat up again as the extension deadline approaches next fall, and we remain hopeful that a common-sense solution is on the horizon.

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