For the last several years, news of other Western states trying to privatize federal lands has made headlines here in Montana. Over the past two years, legislatures in Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Idaho have passed or are studying legislation "demanding" that Congress "transfer" title to National Forests and public lands to states for use and disposal as legislators see fit. Montana is next on the list.
Of course, this isn't an original idea. For those of us that have lived here long enough, you'll recall an attempted land grab in the mid-90s. The Public Land Giveaway Bill (S. 1031) would have put 270 million acres of our BLM land on the auction block. Montanans cried foul and told decision makers public lands weren't for sale back then. And they are not today.
Old habits die hard.
Earlier this year, the Montana Republican Party passed a resolution specifically calling for a transfer of federal lands to the state saying public lands could "be better used through private ownership." A recent report recommended selling Montana's national forests, grasslands and wildlife refuges to the highest bidder. It's part of the Republican plank.
Montanans adamantly oppose such myopic foolishness. We need to put this idea in the political gutter.
Over 90 percent of submitted public comments opposed handing federal lands over to the state. This response puts state legislators on notice. Ideas like these have no place under the Big Sky.
You can help us put an end to this threat by sending a clear message to the 2015 state Legislature that our public lands aren't for sale.
Saturday, Sept 27, is National Hunting and Fishing Day and National Public Lands Day. At noon, Montana Wilderness Association will be gathering with Montana hunters, anglers, hikers, horsemen and women, and conservationists across the state to rally in support of our public lands.
O. Alan Weltzien
510 S. Dakota