By Ron VandenBoom
HAVRE Montana's elk ranchers Friday responded to the
passage of I-143 with the filing of a class action lawsuit
in federal district court in Great Falls.
"Plain and simple, the I-143 proponents successfully misled
the Montana voters and stole my business," said Kim Kafka, a
third-generation Havre rancher who diversified his cattle
and farming operation to include raising elk. "I don't think
it's fair to take a person's legal business and not pay for
I-143 was passed by a 51 percent vote in the November,
2000, election and prevents the licenser of any new
alternative livestock operations.
It prohibits the transfer of existing licenses and it
precludes a licensee from charging a fee for the harvesting
of alternative livestock.
Kafka said these prohibitions eliminated two two out of the
four markets available to producers, breeding stock and
"I complied with all the statutes and rules in obtaining my
license, including an extensive environmental review ...
only to have my business taken from me without any
scientific or factual justification," Kafka said.
The complaint alleges that I-143 violates six provisions of
the United States and Montana Constitutions, including
interstate commerce, equal protection, and substantive due
process clauses, and plaintiffs' fundamental inalienable
rights to pursue life's basic necessities and to acquire,
possess, and protect property.
The suit was filed on behalf of all elk ranchers who have
an ownership interest in Montana's elk ranching industry.
It asks that I-143 by overturned.
The producers are also seeking compensation for the taking
of their property without just compensation.
If deemed an unconstitutional taking without just
compensation, Kafka said he believes I-143 could cost
Montana in excess