|Decoying antelope on public lands in southwest Montana, no access fee, no begging landowners, just park the truck and take a hike...can't beat it.|
In 2016, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle asked gubernatorial candidate, Greg Gianforte, his position on transferring ownership of Public Lands to the state.
I am opposed to deed transfer at this time, because I don’t think it’s attainable.
Now the GOP nominee to fill Ryan Zinke’s vacated post it seems not much has changed.
Using rhetoric that echoes land transfer zealots, former state senator, Debbie Barrett and her pal, current state Sen. Jennifer Fielder, he then ran through a laundry list of complaints about federal public land management to support an argument for why he’d rather see this land managed by the state. He then veered way off the reservation, from lauding state management to supporting a bizarre proposal for projects that would have county commissioners or “some new commission” to manage “federally-deeded lands.”
In other words, those of us—hunters, fishermen, guides, outfitters, campers, atvers, bikers, hikers, you name it—elect Gianforte to the House of Representatives and… If the political winds give him the chance we can, by God, kiss access to public lands good-by.
This might sound good to followers of the Bundys, but “local management” of public lands is simply an unworkable idea. Just the cost of fighting wildland fires on an additional 27 million acres of public lands would put Montana’s taxpayers on the hook for a whopping $100 million in dry years. It would also come with many other costs that would, when added up, force the state to sell our public land to the highest bidder and/or prioritize resource extraction over public access.
Judging his financial support of the Property and Environment Research Center, this could very well be game plan. Backed handsomely by the fossil fuel industry (including the Koch brothers and other mega rich outside interests and landowners, such as the Wilks brothers, hell bent on building mega fiefdoms within the state, cutting access to public lands wherever possible), PERC has a long history of advocating for the privatization and industrialization of public land, going so far as to offer “a blueprint for auctioning off all public lands over 20 to 40 years.”
Obviously Gianforte is deaf the will of the majority of Montanans — nearly 60 percent, according to a recent poll — who adamantly oppose the idea of transferring our public lands to individual states. Obviously he is quick to turn a blind eye that public land in Montana generates $6 billion annually, including $403 million in tax revenue, and accounts for 64,000 jobs across the state. More importantly, public land provides the outdoor way of life that defines who we are as Montanans.
Montana GOP, which passed a resolution in 2014 to “support granting federally managed public lands to the states,” would also do well to remember what public land means to Montanans.
When we go to the polls, May 25th, we can send a strong message to all Montana politicians either honor and unequivocally support, retention of our public land and the gifts public land provides or take a hike. Our Public Lands are the birthright and we Montanans have NO inkling of ever allowing you greedy, land-grabbing, self-serving politicians to steal it.