HELENA — A legislative panel approved a report on federal land management problems in Montana on Wednesday after removing language that mentions the transfer of federal lands to the state.
The Environmental Quality Council approved the report on a 14-2 vote.
The original draft said the Legislature should not pursue a transfer of federal lands until all other options have been investigated. Council members removed that recommendation altogether, saying the report addresses land management, not land transfer or private sale.
“I think it’s important to realize this is not intended to push one way or the other,” EQC member Scott Aspenlieder said of the report.
The sponsor of the bill that led to the report, Sen. Jennifer Fielder, said the report is simply an analysis of risks and problems.
“I believe the transfer idea is worthy of analysis but we haven’t done that,” she said.
Of more than 200 public comments received since the report was released in July, the overwhelming majority are against the idea of transferring federal lands to the state.
The report’s recommendations for federal land management include reducing wildfire fuels, maintaining or increasing access for multiple uses, and increasing economic production associated with natural resources. It also says people in rural areas and those most affected by federal land management should have their interests better represented and that there should be more federal accountability regarding laws favorable to local and state entities.
The draft report also lists 32 risks and concerns from what it says is a proliferation of noxious weeds, to inadequate funding for wildfire suppression to unmanaged, overpopulated timber stands, among others.
Gov. Steve Bullock opposes taking over management of millions of acres of federal land within the state’s boundaries. The Montana Republican Party has endorsed the move.
The report will be used by the 2015 Legislature in addressing federal land issues.
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