Extreme Views Don’t Represent Most Montanans on Public Lands

This month’s election result further validates what the polls have been telling us for years

In her recent op-ed, Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder continued to perpetuate phony myths about American public lands in an attempt to prop up her naive attempts to dispose of them.

According to Sen. Fielder, Montana’s public lands are a trash dump, filled with pests and fenced off to the public. In her telling, the only thing that can save our public lands is for them to be given to the state.

Don’t tell that to the hundreds of thousands of Montanans streaming across the state’s public lands to hunt and fish, who certainly aren’t buying Sen. Fielder’s premise. On the contrary, public opinion research shows unequivocally that Montana voters value national public lands. And poll after poll shows that Montanans – like voters across the West – have little appetite for her misguided plans to “transfer” American lands to state or private interests.

This month’s election result further validates what the polls have been telling us for years.   

Gov. Steve Bullock, a strong advocate for American public lands, won re-election in a difficult political environment for Democrats in Montana on a pro-access and anti-seizure message. Congressman Ryan Zinke, who just won a second term to the United States Congress, is a fierce opponent of efforts to “transfer” public lands to Montana.

And President-elect Donald Trump has strongly disavowed Sen. Fielder’s plans to hand national forests and other public lands over to the states. When asked by a reporter earlier this year about efforts to “transfer” public lands to the states, the President-elect responded, “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold.”

He is exactly right. Montana, which is required to balance its budget each year, would not be able to afford the costs and liabilities of taking on millions of acres of public lands. What would happen when one bad wildfire burns across Montana’s forests? Where would the money to pay for suppression and reclamation costs come from?

The cold hard reality, which Sen. Fielder consistently ignores, is that the money would have to come from somewhere. There are few but no good options for paying management costs; they include raising taxes on Montana workers, raiding other areas of the state budget, like education and law enforcement, and privatizing Montana’s public lands.

Even though Sen. Fielder falls far outside mainstream thought in Montana, she continues to have influence in some segments of Montana politics. She is currently the vice-chair of Montana’s Republican Party and the CEO of the pro-land seizure American Lands Council. You can expect Sen. Fielder to team up with the small number of other anti-public land crusaders in Montana and across West to continue pushing their shortsighted and costly policy ideas.

But worry not, as sportsmen, conservationists, good government groups, and concerned citizens across the West will be standing side-by-side to close the doors on any attempt to dispose of national public lands in state and private hands. And while we may never rid our Western state legislatures of so-called sagebrush rebels entirely, I remain as confident as ever that Sen. Fielder and her political friends will remain on the wrong side of history.

Greg Zimmerman is deputy director at Center for Western Priorities.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Great letter Greg. Jennifer fielder and her constituency is quite confusing. Anti government yet they are over represented in receiving government transfer payments

    • Byron Baker

      Not true. More spin.

      • Doubting Thomas

        What is the spin. You don’t agree that Sanders and Mineral counties are supported through federal and state transfer payments? Like the reservation counties they are takers of public monies.

        • Byron Baker

          What does this have to do about the topic?

          • Doubting Thomas

            Jennifer Fielder and the constituency wanting to take our collective land are the same constituency that we already support through SSI, unemployment, TANF and other government transfer payments. Sanders and Mineral counties are takers that are a millstone around the neck of the workers in this state and country.

          • Byron Baker

            I think the point is that the Transfer of Federal Lands, is a popular choice in Utah, Montana, Wyoming and recently Nevada. This choice is certainly up for vigorous debate. However, I have seen no argument that is valid. Only extreme opposition with no fact. With our new administration in Washington, DC, it will be a easy and beneficial transition.

          • Doubting Thomas

            Sure it is popular, a smaller sub group gets to benefit from the resources that belong to the larger umbrella group.

          • Richard Jones

            Another lie, you are quite adept at just pulling sheet out of your a$$.

            If you consider 37% “quite popular”, personally I consider that to be not popular at all except with the RWNJ’s.

  • geraldcuvillier

    Senator Fielder was re-elected by a landslide so do not lump everyone into your socialist utopia. We do not want to dispose of the lands only to have better management of the lands as the federal government is a failed system. Please educate yourselves and quit outright lying about the issue.

    • reggiewhitefish

      He isn’t lying, you are wrong. Several main supporters of land transfer have said as much.

    • Doubting Thomas

      What specifically would be better management? What kind of compensation would the state provide to the people of the US, who collectively own federal land.

  • taxpayer22

    The state and locals ( using foresters and such ) would do better than federal lawyers two thousand miles away.

    • Rhett the Butler

      Federal lawyers are not limited in their placement across the country.

    • Doubting Thomas

      USFS foresters live in the community.

    • Richard Jones

      Says the guy who lives in Maryland.

  • geraldcuvillier

    No one wants to sell these lands. You are lying as well Reggie.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Gerald is right. The State is much more capable of protecting these lands for the future, and for our progeny.
    Once secured, the lands will sit idle for a time. Then, suddenly, without notice, fences (or walls?) will go up with big, orange, no trespassing signs every 100 ft. The lands will become exclusive home sites for the extremely wealthy, elitists (from around the world). The supreme law of the land (property rights at any and all costs), will then protect the elitist land owners. Law enforcement will capture (for prosecution) any violators for criminal trespass. No more hunting, no more fishing (well maybe on boy scout derby day, a tax write off ruse), no more huckleberry picking, no more firewood collecting, etc., etc. Yes, no more bickering over roads (open or closed), logging lawsuits, trail maintenance, or camp fires.
    The upside: Those lands will be preserved for a long, long, time. Deer and elk populations will improve (because only special and exclusive $15.000.00 hunts will be allowed). Fire suppressing “parking out” (logging) will keep the forest from burning out of control. All of this, right up to the moment the land is sold (for a hefty “god given” profit) to a large development corporation for an exclusive “Iron Horse” style protected community with armed security guards at the gates. Water bottling plants will abound, aiding the removal of that pesky, noisy, water.
    Won’t it be nice to see those land baron mansions high up on the mountain top, over looking the riff raff?
    Go Gerald, Go.

    • Byron Baker

      The land will not be sold. States will retain it forever.

      • Richard Jones

        Just like how Nevada sold 97% of the state land it once held?

        You are a fool Byron, and your arguments are extra pathetic today.

  • Jennifer Fielder

    In case any readers would like to review what my article actually said, and what the proposal for land transfer is actually about, and contrast the facts with what Zimmerman (the paid political operative from Colorado) “reported” here you go: http://www.americanlandscouncil.org/goals_of_public_land_transfer_reaffirmed

    • Concerned Citizen

      “An equitable revenue-sharing arrangement between the State and counties is proposed so a large portion of any profits from mineral royalties, timber receipts, or grazing fees would stay with the county to help fund things like local roads, crime control, ambulance, fire departments, and other public services. The State’s share of proceeds could be used to support schools, highways, healthcare or other public programs anywhere in the State.”
      Yeah Right!
      That’s why the Montana State Department of Natural Resources just GAVE away hundreds of millions of gallons of pristine deep aquifer water to a “good ol’ boy” Republican person, I mean, corporation, to do with as he will. NO money will be allocated to the state, county, or anyone other than the greed mongering corporatist, who is snaking the rest of us (with help from the DNRC and personal help from our wonderful county commissioners) for every penny he can get, and leaving the rest of us to do without water sometime in the future. Please don’t bother us with your hyperbolic BS.

      • Byron Baker

        Sounds like an issue you need to take to local government and DNR. What does this have to do with taking back federally managed lands?

        • Concerned Citizen

          Byron, if you read my posts you will soon realize that my opinion is that this “transfer” will only lead to our land being sold to the highest bidder, i.e. anyone on this planet can/will buy our lands and lock the rest of us out. Federal management is way better than losing the land. Do you really trust the state? I do not! They do what the wealthy donators want them to do, not what is best, and they do that through sneaky back door legislation.
          “take to local government and DNR” You cannot just take it to the bureaucracy, you have to hire (expensive) attorneys. They are so entrenched in the (out dated) rules they won’t even hear the argument let alone act on it. These issues always end up in a (required) lawsuit.

          • Richard Jones

            Byron has lived in Wyoming for the last 8 years, before that he is from California.

            Clearly he hates the federal government, but gladly works for state governments on a regular basis.

            Huuuuuuuuugggggggeeeeeee difference between the two, one is for liberal pukes and the other is for GOD fearing conservatives who love this country.

    • Doubting Thomas

      How do you reconcile your constituency being takers of federal services with the idea that they don’t need the government?

      • Byron Baker

        Simple. Tell them they don’t need the FS/BLM to manage their lands.
        They have done a horrible job. The states will do an excellent job.

        Doubting Thomas, are a Forest Service employee?

        • Doubting Thomas

          I am not.

    • Doubting Thomas

      Why haven’t you released the requested emails?

    • Byron Baker

      Jennifer, you are correct and many support exactly what the American Lands Council is doing. Keep up the great work.

      • Doubting Thomas

        No we don’t.

    • Richard Jones

      Jennifer Fielder – you are a paid political operative from Utah, supposedly representing Montana.

      I know that you are a moron, but do you really think that the rest of us are so ignorant of who pays your bills?

  • geraldcuvillier

    Mr. Concerned citizen is really orbiting out there around Pluto. This tactic was used in Germany in the 1930s. Tell the lie loud enough and long enough and some uninformed people will believe it.

    • Ake_Odinsson

      The quote about the lie was referring to the lies of the Jews…and they continue to tell them.
      Please don’t believe them.

      • Caddisfly

        Moron

      • Richard Jones

        How was jail Sam?

  • geraldcuvillier

    The people of the U. S. do not own the land, the people of the State of Montana collectively own the land. How much land do you collectively own east of Montana?

    • Doubting Thomas

      Please provide documentation to support this assertion.

  • Byron Baker

    States of us all own their land. How? They asked for it to be returned, took a few years. Hawaii was the most recent. There have been no issues. Jennifer Fielder and the ALC have an excellent plan. The State of Wyoming will follow soon. Utah may be the first to get their lands back. Boy, there are alot of lies flying around the internet on this topic by the liberals…….

    • Doubting Thomas

      Link to a source to back you assertion?

    • Richard Jones

      You mean like this lie that you keep repeating?

      “Every year, millions of acres are closed to humans”

      • Byron Baker

        HaHa. It is true. You liberals love to attack people.

        • Richard Jones

          And Conservatives love to lie.

          Just repeat the lie often enough and hope it sticks, right?

  • Concerned Citizen

    Gerald, corporations and companies from here, or anywhere around the planet, can come here, rape, pillage, and plunder the environment so they can glean a profit. Then they give us (the tax payers) the bill for cleaning up the toxic, swampy, messes they leave. Clear cuts? Asbestos waste, toxins and heavy metals from mining (eg C-Falls Aluminum), poisoned lakes, river and streams, from oil drilling and fracking. You get my drift around Pluto right? If this is the type of stewardship you espouse then I pity you.
    I was once told by a fairly intelligent person, “when your opponent in conversation starts talking about Hitler, the conversation is pretty much over”.
    Thanks Gerald

  • Gene Dziza

    What I like about Federal control is we’ve had relative stability in land use policy. Political winds shift and while we in Montana have had much Republican control in recent years, that may change in future years. So we could have altering land use policies, depending on which way the political winds are blowing. My vote is for stability and relative predictability.

    • Byron Baker

      The BLM/FS land use policies have been increasing restrictive and unacceptable for the last 20 years. Soon, the Forests will only be available to animals. Every year, millions of acres are closed to humans with ridiculous agency policies.

      • Concerned Citizen

        “Soon, the Forests will only be available to animals.”
        I really doubt that. There would be quit an uprising if they tried to close the land off completely. However, I would prefer tighter restrictions over losing the land forever, which, by the way, is exactly what will happen if the greed mongers get their sticky (wealthy) little fingers on it.
        If you need references for what I am talking about, I can start a list. It will be long.
        Are you an American Byron?

        • Richard Jones

          Byron is delusional that any of the forests are currently closed.

      • Richard Jones

        None of the forests are closed. You can go anywhere you want.

        Provide me an example of the forests “closing”, let alone millions of acres.

        Pure and total B.S., either you are a bald faced liar or an ignorant POS from NoDak.

    • reggiewhitefish

      Altering land use policies can only last as long as a public entity owns the land. If these radical Republicans get their way, much of this land will be in private (exploiting) hands…..and the debate will be over…..forever.

      • Gene Dziza

        I don’t think that’s the case at all. Nobody wants to sell public land, they just want to control it. I think frustration over logging lawsuits and road closures is the biggest driver of their efforts to gain control.

  • geraldcuvillier

    The American Lands Council. With federal control we have out of control fires every summer and more and more closed roads.There does not have to be any raping and pillaging done by any company or person. The states can control that better than any out of touch government two thousand miles away. The endless litigation by the environmental groups prevent any kind of sensible management. This is clearly not working and to continue doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result is insanity. Stop the insanity.

    • reggiewhitefish

      You do know that the American lands Council is heavily funded by extraction industries (oil and gas) right? And that the American Legislative Exchange Council (a group of big corporations and their owned Republican legislators) endorses transferring federal lands to the states, probably at the demand of the Koch brother’s industries so they can get in early on the raping and pillaging, right?

      • Byron Baker

        Not true.

  • geraldcuvillier

    Mr. Odinsson, please do not spew hour hate. It does no one any good. If you refuse to believe that six million Jews were killed in Europe during World War Two then you are in serious denial and are no better than the Jihadist today.

  • geraldcuvillier

    Do you know that the American Lands Council is funded by individual dues paid by the members?

    • Richard Jones

      Did you know that $hit comes out of your mouth every time you talk?

  • Byron Baker

    Let’s be clear. The States will not sell public lands.
    But let’s assume for the enviro’s, that they do.

    Scenario:

    Montana takes back management of public lands.
    State of Montana wants to sell 100,000 acres of public lands to evil oil companies.
    95% of the proceeds of this sale must be paid to the Feds (it’s the law).
    5% can be kept by the States after all costs (legal, etc) are deducted.

    No state will be selling their lands. End of debate.

    • Richard Jones

      Scenario:

      Montana takes over all federal land in the state, massive wildfires consume the forests the very next summer.

      Montana picks up 100% of the bill for firefighting efforts and is bankrupt.

      No state should take control of federal lands. End of debate.

      • Byron Baker

        Wildfire consuming the forests? So what has changed?

        • Richard Jones

          Who picks up the bill.

          How about this for an attack?

          You’re a f*cking moron.

  • geraldcuvillier

    Typical left wing response, you cannot keep your mind out of the gutter. Montana has a surplus of funds to fight fires right now and your boy Bullock wants to spend it on other things. The federally controlled lands are burning up every year and no revenue is being generated from these lands as they are being locked up and burned up. The American taxpayers is footing the bill and it is being tacked on to our ballooning debt. This is clearly not working and to the same thing over and over and expect a different result is the description of insanity. The states can and will manage the lands better for all of us.