By State Sen. Jennifer Fielder
Over the past three years, the idea of transferring federally managed public lands to the states has swelled from a small town dream to a full-fledged national movement. As grass roots support grows, organized opposition bolsters their attempts to distort the truth and dirty the reputations of good, honest people.
For example, opponents have repeatedly told everyone that if Montanans were in charge of our own lands and resources, we would sell them all off. Well, I think that kind of criticism is selling Montanans short.
Whether it is work, play, or the scenic beauty of our rolling prairies, majestic mountains, or clear blue waters, Montana’s public lands are special to all of us. There’s no need to sell public lands to make money because wise stewardship of natural resources can produce more than enough revenue to cover land management costs while enhancing the environment and providing world class outdoor recreation opportunities.
Early this year, I introduced SB215, a simple bill that would prohibit the sale of any federal land that may be transferred to the state in the future. Guess who opposed the law that would keep public lands public? It was the same left leaning organizations who are telling everyone we would sell it! Specifically, paid lobbyists representing Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Wildlife Federation, and Montana Audubon Society came into our State Capitol and testified against SB215. So did democrat Governor Bullock’s administration.
Amazingly, just one week later, the same groups held a “keep it public” rally in the State Capitol. They came up with a lot of money from somewhere to bus hundreds of people in from all over Montana and feed them free lunch to go with the line of “bull” they served up over the megaphone.
A few weeks later the Montana Democrat party piled on with a bogus fund raising letter falsely stating that my bill, SB 215, was a bill to “sell Montana’s public lands”. In actuality, SB215 reads: “An act prohibiting future sales of land granted or transferred to the state”. You can verify what I am reporting here by reviewing the official public record at http://leg.mt.gov and search the LAWS data base for SB215. I welcome you to read the bill and watch the video of the hearing to see who really testified in favor of keeping public lands public and who opposed it.
Governor Steve Bullock recently held an expensive statewide “telephone town hall”, apparently funded by the Wilderness Association to perpetuate blatant untruths about the transfer of public lands movement. The latest whopper came two weeks ago from a mysterious new, self-proclaimed “watchdog” group run by high level democrat political strategists in Washington DC. In spite of the fact that transfer of public lands to the states has already been done before, this group is claiming it is “fraudulent” to work toward less federal control of the public land in our states! That, my friends, is a desperate attempt to shut down debate, suppress free speech, and stifle our success.
Despite the organized opposition’s outrageous rhetoric and relentless attacks, the grass roots movement for local control has been so successful that seventeen States and the U.S. Congress have now initiated legislation in favor of turning federal lands over to willing states. Fifty western counties and numerous organizations have issued official statements of support. Many have donated time and resources to the effort and more are joining every day.
Obviously the idea of thoughtful, accountable, locally driven stewardship of our public lands makes sense to a growing number of people. Many of us realize Montanans would make wiser choices for our lands than distant decision makers in Washington DC. We could become a more self-reliant state with better public access, environmental health, and economic productivity on our public lands. And that seems to scare some very powerful, very wealthy bullies who prefer federal control of Montana.
NOTE: Senator Fielder serves on the Senate Natural Resources Committee, Senate Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee, and Senate Judiciary. She Chaired Montana’s 2013-14 Study of Federal Land Management. She represents Senate District 7 in Northwest Montana.
Last Updated on Monday, 15 June 2015 16:11