The Land Board and Conservation Easements

Working together often takes the form of grassroots hunter/angler and private landowner partnerships working with Montana FWP

By Jim Posewitz

Montana history is littered with examples of people exploiting our natural resources, turning beauty into toxic puddles and then simply walking away. A few examples include our Great Plains left littered with buffalo bones, the totally toxic Berkeley Pit, the mines at Zortman-Landusky and Libby. Montana history is also full of examples of people working together to repair, preserve and protect our outdoor heritage. It’s why we have the Montana of today.

Working together often takes the form of grassroots hunter/angler and private landowner partnerships working with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. At times it becomes finding a way to set aside land to be managed as a public trust for the benefit of fish, wildlife and the people who value them. It is a way of insuring that those of us without a trophy ranch can to take to the field. An example of this in Montana history is the Sun River game range. That seminal land acquisition followed a recommendation of a sportsmen/landowner council created to address wildlife restoration along the Rocky Mountain Front. When the acquisition was in jeopardy Choteau rancher Carl Malone and Great Falls hunter Tom Messelt each put up $5,000 to hold the deal together and give the Fish and Game Department the time needed to consummate the deal. Contrary to the narratives being pushed, these partnerships were and are the norm.

I was stunned to see three votes against such a partnership from the current Land Board. A private landowner had worked for years with Fish, Wildlife and Parks to set aside land with a public easement. The only opposition that showed up came from oil and gas interests. How could three people vote against such a vital component of our heritage in favor of an industry with a messy track record at best?

According to VoteSmart.Org, those three negative votes received the following contributions from the oil and gas industry: Matt Rosendale – $40,850.00; Elsie Arntzen – $4,594.56; Corey Stapleton – $9,131.78. I suspect most if not all Land Board candidates get some help from big oil – that is where the money is. Democrat Gov. Steve Bullock and Republican Attorney General Tim Fox, however, chose to stand with the 87 percent of us who consider ourselves outdoor enthusiasts in a recent 2018 Poll of the West. When the time comes, please remember, the two who voted to preserve the best of Montana traditions and your heritage.

Please also take note of the leadership demonstrated by Bullock in overriding the flawed decision. It’s what we elected him to do. More importantly remember the actions of the three who chose oil and gas over property rights and Montana’s outdoor heritage. Remember this when they run their political ads. You should be able to spot them; they usually appear in unstained rancher wear, blaze orange vests without a smudge, or wearing a just-out-of-the-box pair of fishing waders.

Jim Posewitz spent 32 years with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.