For those interested in the management of natural resources on National Forests and the ability to access those wild and wide-open areas, there is an opportunity to ensure you will be able to continue to enjoy and benefit from these activities. The Montana Legislature has been examining federal land management in our state and has prepared a report with facts, observations, findings and recommendations. The Environmental Quality Council, an interim committee of the Montana Legislature, is considering a report that could influence the management and access to federal land in Montana.
Many of the findings and recommendations in the report are not new. For example, reducing hazardous fuels that threaten homes and communities, while critically important, is not a new discovery. What is new and should be reviewed carefully is the concept of transferring federal lands within Montana to the state. There are legislators in this state that are interested in pursuing avenues that would give Montana ownership of federal lands. For many reasons, including the staffing and additional expense to taxpayers of managing these lands, the loss of federal payments to counties, the cost of wildland fire suppression and many others, this is an unreasonable idea. Furthermore, to be successful, federal congressional approval would be required and considerable legal expense necessary. The pursuit of transferring federal lands is imprudent and a waste of Montana taxpayers’ money.
The most significant reason not to support this idea is that if federal lands became state lands, the newly acquired state lands could be sold to private parties. Many communities around the state have worked very hard to maintain open space and access to public lands. Montana has the statutory authority to liquidate state lands if it is advantageous to the beneficiaries.
The report is in draft form and titled “Evaluating Federal Land Management in Montana” and is available on the Montana Legislature website under Interim Committees. The easiest way to get the report is to go to www.leg.mt.gov/eqc. Click on “comment on draft reports and proposed legislation.” The comment period is open until August 16. Now is the time to let the Legislature know how you feel about this important issue.
Rep. Ed Lieser
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