Montana sportsmen praise Bullock’s veto of anti-public lands bill

May 1, 2015

Montana sportsmen are thanking Governor Steve Bullock for vetoing controversial legislation that would have paved the way to selling off public lands.

Bullock today rejected HB 496, sponsored by Rep. Kerry White (R-Bozeman). The bill would have created a task force to consider management of all federal lands in Montana, including Indian Reservations and Department of Defense lands along with national forests and grasslands. This task force would have been a first step toward selling public lands and closing off public access. In its original form, HB 496 was focused on the transfer of public lands to the state of Montana.

“This anti-public lands bill was a bad idea for Montana every step of the way, and we’re grateful to Governor Bullock for standing with Montanans against any scheme to ultimately close off our public lands,” said Joelle Selk, president of the Montana Bowhunters Association. “We join tens of thousands of Montanans in calling on our elected leaders to stop pushing out-of-state, astro-turf plans to weaken our outdoor heritage.”

The issue of transferring public lands has been contentious this legislative session, drawing roughly 500 people to the capitol for a rally on President’s Day to protest efforts lead by Rep. White and Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R-Thompson Falls) to implement the public land takeover agenda of the Utah-based American Lands Council.

“After the rallies, the petition, and countless opinion pieces in statewide newspapers all opposing transfer, it’s clear that Montanans have shut the door on this scheme,” says Dave Chadwick, executive director of Montana Wildlife Federation. “We thank the governor for listening to Montanans and vetoing the one and only transfer bill to sneak through the Legislature.”

Public lands contribute to an outdoor recreation economy that creates 64,000 direct jobs in Montana and pumps nearly $6 billion into the local economy while providing a stable tax base of over $500 million per year.

“Public land management is complex. It requires honest conversations and hard work from folks on the ground, like we have with our Citizen Advisory Committees & Resource Advisory Committees,” said John Sullivan, co-chair of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “For anyone to say that Montana’s public lands are only managed by D.C. bureaucrats is disingenuous. Local working groups spend countless hours collaborating with land managers to decide how to best manage public lands for all Americans. That’s truly democracy in action.”

“Montanan’s Bighorn Sheep live primarily on public land,” said Brian Solan, president of the Montana Wild Sheep Foundation. “We’re very pleased that Governor Bullock vetoed a poorly thought-out bill that could have put bighorns as well as our $6 billion outdoor economy at risk. It’s time to move beyond the rhetoric of transferring and selling public land, and work together to implement better management solutions. We’re ready to do that.”

Read the governor’s veto letter.
HB 496 Veto