Last month Wyoming lawyer Karen Budd-Falen came to Hamilton to push her agenda of local control over federal public lands She came to push for local land use plans and how counties can use them to dictate federal land management, something that Budd-Falen has used before in other Western counties to push for local governments to take over federal national forests and other public lands. She was welcomed to Hamilton by a Montana state senator who leads an organization that exists for the sole purpose of transferring federal land to state control.
Yet again, Montanans showed up to let it be known that we want nothing to do with this fool’s errand. It was reminiscent of earlier this year, when well over 1,000 Montanans from all walks of life and all corners of the state packed the capitol rotunda with a simple message – keep public lands public.
The Montana Wildlife Federation helped organize members to show up and make our voice heard. We know that federal public lands are essential to our abundant wildlife, our clean coldwater fisheries and ultimately our rich outdoor traditions. Federal land management is far from perfect – and we know that. But we also know that there are numerous local collaborative groups working to build consensus and improve conditions on the ground. And we’re seeing the results, with strong consensus measures like the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, as well as on-the-ground projects moving forward on places like the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
Proponents of transfer say it wouldn’t lead to a sell-off. We know better. Just last month our state legislature held a special session to plug a $220 million budget hole – one driven in a big part by the state’s firefighting bill from a big fire year. If Montanans were stuck with the bill for the federal lands, it would be a budget buster, and we would either fact massive tax increases or be forced to start selling off the land.
Even the Ravalli County Commission rejects the Budd-Falen agenda, and made it clear it wanted nothing to do with her visit. We’re thankful that most Montanans are moving on from this bad idea, and getting down to business to find real land management solutions.
Want to help us push back on efforts to take over and sell off our public lands? Join MWF today!