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Public Lands Rally

Over 1,000 demonstrators packed into the Capitol rotunda Jan. 30, 2017, for a public lands rally.

For the third legislative session in a row, a coalition of conservation and political groups will host the Rally for Public Lands at the Montana State Capitol.

This year’s rally will be held at noon on Friday, Jan. 11, in the rotunda. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock will serve once again as the keynote speaker. Other speakers will include Shane Doyle, educator and member of the Crow Tribe, Ryan Busse with Kimber Manufacturing, and Maggie Carr, co-owner of Dropstone Outfitting in Choteau.

Public lands have become a major political issue in Montana and across the West in recent years. The rallies have become a focal point of debate on public land ownership, drawing about 500 participants in 2015 and more than 1,000 in 2017 to pack the rotunda and decry attempts to sell public lands or transfer ownership to the state.

Supporters of federal land transfer believe the state of Montana would better manage those lands and produce revenue from timber, mining and grazing, as well as recreation.

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Opponents believe the transfer of millions of acres would be unsustainable due to the cost of management, leading to a sell-off into private ownership.

The issue of federal land transfer drew a handful of bills in the 2015 legislature, both for and against, and in 2017 bills to honor public lands failed to pass. At the federal level, policies aimed at reducing environmental regulations and protections have brought renewed focus to lands issues.

The rally is hosted by Public Lands in Public Hands, Forward Montana, The Wilderness Society, MontPIRG, Montana Conservation Voters, Montana Wildlife Federation, American Rivers, Montana Audubon, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Montana Wilderness Association, Business for Montana’s Outdoors, Outdoor Alliance-Montana, Back Country Horsemen of Montana and Winter Wildlands Alliance.

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Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin

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