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The recent article in The Montana Standard by Cole Mannix of the Western Landowners Alliance based in Santa Fe, New Mexico follows the same old line as previous organizations advocating the privatization of our public lands and the obliteration of public access.

His organization may or may not know the business end of a cow, but they are very good at spreading the end product.

His organization consists of very large ranches with very wealthy owners.

The Western Landowners Alliance is in lockstep with the movement from politicians from Montana as well as in Washington, D.C. This is evidenced by bills introduced by Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte to release nearly a million acres of wilderness study areas; by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's reduction in our National Monuments as well as threats to some of our present wilderness areas.

When these public lands were designated, there was collaboration by numerous organizations, state and federal agencies as well as individuals. Here in Montana, two popular conservation easements have been denied by three conservative members of the state land board. Now, these lands will be disposed of without any public collaboration.

Regarding Cole Mannix's references to Porcupine Low Line Trail in the Crazy Mountains: Where was the collaboration when Ned Zimmerman placed locked gates on the trail near the Porcupine and Ibex cabins? Was this century-old public trail blocked off to facilitate more income from his "hunt club" without public interference?

Mannix also refers to the Crazy Mountains Working Group, but according to some participants, the group was "stacked" against public use of these trails. In fact, their proposal to relocate the trail to higher, steeper elevations would make public use almost impossible.

The fact is that relocating the trail would cost taxpayers more than $200,000, and would never happen because of budget constraints.

The Washington, D.C. push that removed the area district ranger for doing his job sends a clear message to all federal employees not to do anything to help the public.

The loss of our public lands and public access will not only affect this generation, but all future generations. Our kids deserve better.

Tony Schoonen of Butte is a member of the Public Land and Water Access Association and is on the board of directors of Skyline Sportsmen's Association.


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