Frank Vitale: Keep federal lands in public hands

Long-time NFPA member Frank Vitale wrote a pointed op-ed addressing the idea of transferring federal lands to state ownership and control. It appeared today on the Flathead Beacon’s website . . .

On Feb. 16 my wife and I attended the Public Lands Rally in Helena in the state capitol rotunda. The rally began at high noon, but people started filtering through the doors well before that. Many sported posters and banners in support of keeping our federal lands in public hands. As the rally began people continued filing into the room standing shoulder to shoulder. All the hallways, balconies and staircase were packed full.

A few people who supported transferring our federal lands to state ownership infiltrated our rally, but they were drowned out. Folks from all around the state made the trip to Helena and stood in solidarity against the lunatic idea of land transfer. Gov. Steve Bullock along with several guest speakers including Mary Sexton, former head of State Lands and Teton County commissioner, and David Allen, president of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, gave fiery speeches against transfer of federal lands to the state. The crowds responded with thundering applause and cheers. Hopefully the state legislators took heed as the State Capitol rocked and rolled.

The land transfer concept is not new. It goes as far back as territorial days and the copper kings. In more recent history, I remember the days of James Watt and the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s and early ’80s. Today it resurfaces with the Koch brothers, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and Americans for Prosperity to name a few. They work their dark money in local elections across the country. Their call for local control rings hollow because their agenda is exploitation of the resources on our public lands.

Our public lands belong to all Americans. They’re not for sale to the very wealthy to make huge profits and lock us out. My suggestion to those who support land transfer: pack your bags and move to a place where there are no public lands and access is limited to only those who can afford pay.

Our public lands are a national treasure, a gift to all of us, and the envy of the world.

Frank Vitale
Columbia Falls

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