Tag Archives: public lands

How America uses its lands

Map of land usage in the contiguous US - Bloomberg
Map of land usage in the contiguous US – Bloomberg

When talking about public lands — a critical issue for any conservation organization these days — context is important. The contiguous United States has 1.9 billion acres of land, broadly categorized by the USDA as urban, forest, pasture, special use, and cropland. For Bloomberg, Dave Merrill and Lauren Leatherby do an impressive job of presenting how this land is being used and how this usage is changing.

Recommended reading . . .

Here’s How America Uses Its Land (Bloomberg)

Poll indicates strong support for public land protections

Badger-Two Medicine Region
Badger-Two Medicine Region

The University of Montana ran a bi-partisan poll back in June that indicated very strong support for protecting public lands, including the Badger-Two Medicine region . . .

A University of Montana poll done last month found there’s strong support for national monument status for the Badger Two Medicine region near Glacier National Park.

The Badger-Two Medicine is a 130,000-acre wildland south of Marias Pass on the Lewis and Clark National Forest. It is known for its elk herd and is prime grizzly bear habitat. The Blackfeet Tribe consider the ground sacred.

It’s also been embroiled in controversy for decades, as oil and gas companies have sought to drill for oil and gas there. Currently, there’s a lawsuit in federal court over the matter, as the Obama Administration canceled all the existing leases in the area during the waning days of the administration, paying off the companies in the process.

The UM poll found that 76 percent of voters supported a national monument designation for the Badger-Two Med.

Read more . . .

Excellent commentary on conservation and public lands

Three Types of Public Lands
Three types of public lands: Flathead National Forest is in the foreground, left and right; Montana’s Coal Creek State Forest, including Cyclone Lake, is in the middle distance; Glacier National Park stretches across the background.

The Flathead Beacon has posted a couple of excellent, well-reasoned op-eds over the past week.

The first, by Jim McCormack, titled What Happened to the Teddy Roosevelt Conservationist? takes Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to task for gutting the Land and Water Conservation Fund .

The second, Montanans Want a Say on the Future of Our Wild Public Lands by Connie and Mack Long, has some pointed and reasonable things to say about the importance of public involvement when making broad decisions about public lands.

UofM survey: Montanans overwhelmingly support public lands

Three Types of Public Lands
Three types of public lands: Flathead National Forest is in the foreground, left and right; Montana’s Coal Creek State Forest, including Cyclone Lake, is in the middle distance; Glacier National Park stretches across the background.

No surprises here. A pretty well-designed survey by the University of Montana revealed that people who live in Montana really like their public lands.

But, in a related story, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte say they don’t believe it because “they had the support of local county commissions” for legislation to close down several wilderness study areas (WSA’s). You just can’t make this stuff up.

Anyways, here’s the lead-in for a good article on the survey. A link for the WSA issue follows . . .

The University of Montana 2018 Public Lands Survey showed wide, bipartisan appreciation for the state’s wild places.

“The takeaway for me is, support for policy to protect public land is going up, not down,” said Rick Graetz, director of UM’s Crown of the Continent Greater Yellowstone Initiative, which commissioned the survey. “That’s true on both sides of the aisle. Democrats, Republicans and Independents all see the value of it. That wasn’t true even 10 years ago when we started our program.”

The poll found four out of five Montanans considered public lands an economic benefit to the state, while just 3 percent said their presence hurt the economy.

Read more . . .

Also read: Daines, Gianforte discount poll showing broad support for keeping Wilderness Study Areas (Missoulian)

Carolyn Kormann: Ryan Zinke’s Great American Fire Sale

Here’s a well-researched piece by New Yorker staff writer Carolyn Kormann discussing U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan ZInke’s efforts to open up more public lands for resource development. Kudos to Debo Powers for spotting this one . . .

Not long ago, the Bureau of Land Management, an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior, began distributing “vision cards” to its employees. The front of each card features the B.L.M. logo (a river winding into green foothills); short descriptions of the Bureau’s “vision,” “mission,” and “values”; and an oil rig. On the flip side is a list of “guiding principles,” accompanied by an image of two cowboys riding across a golden plain. Amber Cargile, a B.L.M. spokeswoman, told me that the new cards are meant to reflect the agency’s “multiple-use mission on working landscapes across the West, which includes grazing, energy, timber, mining, recreation, and many other programs.” Individual employees, she added, can opt to wear or display the cards at their own discretion. But, according to the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which obtained photos of the cards and shared them with the Washington Post, supervisors in at least two B.L.M. field offices have been verbally “advising that employees must clip them to their lanyards.” Some workers, speaking to the Post anonymously, said that they felt they had no choice but to comply.

Read more . . .

‘Our land, our legacy’ campaign launches

Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area - photo by Sally Carlson
Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area – photo by Sally Carlson

A message from our friends at the Montana Wilderness Association…

On Monday morning, February 5, we helped launch the campaign for our Our Land, Our Legacy – a diverse group of Montanans from across the state who have come together to celebrate and defend Montana’s 44 wilderness study areas (WSAs), which comprise more than 1 million acres of Montana’s wildest, most pristine public lands.

Five of our wilderness study areas, a half-million acres in all, are under attack by Senator Steve Daines, who introduced a bill in December (S. 2206) that would open these areas to oil and gas development and destructive off-road vehicle use.

Each of the folks featured in Our Land, Our Legacy has a special relationship to one or more of the WSAs and can speak on behalf of these places like few others. We’re proud to have them as our partners in fighting tooth and nail for Montana’s wildest, most pristine public lands.

The launch of Our Land, Our Legacy drew a wave of media, locally and nationally, from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle to the Ravalli Republic to U.S News & World Report. On Tuesday, Our Land, Our Legacy advertisements opposing Sen. Daines’ bill appeared in newspapers across the state.

Then on Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (SENR) held a hearing on the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, which would add 80,000 acres to the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Mountains Wilderness Areas. With support from a spectrum of interests, from timber to outdoor recreation to conservation, this proposal is truly the product of grassroots collaboration happening in Montana, and it shows in the 74 percent approval it gets from Montanans. We couldn’t be more grateful to Senator Jon Tester for championing this bill.

The grassroots, bipartisan roots of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act stands in stark contrast to the other Montana public lands bill that got a hearing in the SENR on Wednesday – Sen. Daines’ WSA bill. In the hearing, Sen. Daines claimed he had the support of Montana’s communities for this top-down, one-size-fits-all bill.

Only a few hours later at a Ravalli County Commission meeting in Hamilton, Montana, MWA members proved Sen. Daines wrong.

Oh so wrong.

Thanks to the mobilizing efforts of our staff and volunteers, around 250 people showed up to the open meeting, held to address a letter the commission sent to Senator Daines in support of stripping protection from two of the WSAs in the bill – Sapphire and Blue Joint, which mostly lie in Ravalli County.

A staggering 153 people signed into the county meeting as opposed to Senator Daines’ bill, only 41 in support. Over the course of the next few hours, 52 people testified against the bill, 20 in favor. Moreover, 78 people sent the commission emails opposing the bill, compared to 20 in favor.

Read more about the meeting.

Please take a moment to visit the Our Land, Our Legacy website. Be sure to watch the video featuring some of the Our Land, Our Legacy spokespeople, and then sign the letter asking Montana’s congressional delegation to take a more balanced and inclusive approach to Montana’s WSAs.

If you’re feeling especially ambitious, let the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee know that you oppose Sen. Daines’ bill, S. 2206. You can email the committee at fortherecord@energy.senate.gov.

 

Gov. Steve Bullock: Public lands make America great

A recent email sent out by Montana Governor Steve Bullock . . .

It’s past time folks in the West extended an invitation to the President to get outdoors. A little time in the backcountry has a way of helping us remember who we are and where we come from. It’s hard to spend some time on our state’s public lands without quickly learning some humility, and equally hard to return to your day job without being inspired by all we have in common.

Because where we come from 18 holes might be relaxing, but it’s not the same as sleeping under the stars, watching a herd of elk crest a hill at 5:30 in the morning or feeling the tug of a trout from a blue-ribbon river on your line. If the President had grown up the way we have, he might feel differently about pulling the rug out from under so many people whose livelihoods depend on our access to public lands.

The decision to substantially shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah reveals how at the most basic level he and his administration misunderstand what it means to preserve and protect our history – our heritage – for future generations. 16 presidents have designated 157 national monuments, dating back to 1906 when President Roosevelt first used the Antiquities Act to protect Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. In contrast, the President’s plans add up to the largest elimination of protected areas in American history.

An attack on public lands anywhere is an attack on public lands everywhere, and it flies in the face of who we are as a nation. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – Manhattan, Montana, Manhattan, New York, or Manhattan, Kansas – public lands belong to each and every one of us. They are one of this country’s great equalizers.

Frankly, it makes me wonder whether or not the President is truly committed to investing in what makes America great. Because a fundamental part of what makes America great is our land.

Earlier this year the halls of our state capitol shook with thousands of voices chanting in support of keeping public lands in public hands. I stood side by side with hunters, ranchers, anglers, sportsmen and women, veterans, grandparents and kids of all ages and declared Montana’s public lands would not be bought and sold to the highest bidder.

That day it didn’t matter where we lived, what we did for a living or whether we voted for a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, or an Independent. What mattered is we stood together, united by our shared values and love of our lands, rivers, streams and most importantly our way of life. Crowded shoulder-to-shoulder, we doubled down on our shared responsibility to manage these lands and our commitment to preserving and protecting them for our kids and our grandkids.

This isn’t an issue that divides us. You don’t have to have a Swiss bank account to spend a day on the river. You don’t have to have friends in high places to explore mountains and trails. You don’t have to own a big piece of property to experience some of the best hunting and fishing in the world. And you don’t have to pay a fortune to experience the cliff dwellings of the Bears Ears to be humbled by an ancient way of life and be left awestruck with a sense of the sacred connection many of the tribal nations know so completely.

This is an issue that unites us. When we experience our public lands and embrace our shared responsibility to care for them, we’re participating in one of the great expressions of our democracy – where we go as equals and return touched by what binds us together.

Those who came before us had the foresight to maintain our history and our hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation legacy for the future. We have always found a way to safeguard that which we cannot replace. Public lands are our history, our heritage – our birthright – and we will not see them diminished.

Not now, not ever. Not on our watch.

Sincerely,

STEVE BULLOCK
Governor

Zinke won’t eliminate any national monuments

Bears Ears National Monument - Bob Wick, BLM-Flickr
Bears Ears National Monument – At 1.35 million acres, it is among the largest national monuments in the country – Bob Wick, BLM-Flickr

There may be a few (cough) adjustments, though . . .

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Thursday he won’t seek to rescind any national monuments carved from the wilderness and oceans by past presidents. But he said he will press for some boundary changes and left open the possibility of allowing drilling, mining or other industries on the sites.

Twenty-seven monuments were put under review in April by President Donald Trump, who has charged that the millions of acres designated for protection by President Barack Obama were part of a “massive federal land grab.”

If Trump adopts Zinke’s recommendations, it could ease some of the worst fears of his opponents, who warn that vast public lands and marine areas could be stripped of federal protection.

Read more . . .

‘Last Best Outdoor Fest’ celebrates public lands

Columbia Falls had quite an event last Tuesday in support of public lands and the part they play in the economy . . .

Montana’s public lands and outdoor recreation provide 71,000 jobs in the state and $7.1 billion in consumer spending, Montana Sen. Jon Tester told a capacity crowd at the Last Best Outdoor Fest Tuesday night in Columbia Falls.

The fest celebrated Montana’s abundance of public lands and was also a political rally to oppose any measures to sell them off.

With a host of public lands at its doorstep and a river running through it, Columbia Falls is becoming the place to live for those who love the great outdoors.

Read more . . .

Timothy Egan: The last best empty place in America

Three Types of Public Lands
Three types of public lands: Flathead National Forest is in the foreground, left and right; Montana’s Coal Creek State Forest, including Cyclone Lake, is in the middle distance; Glacier National Park stretches across the background.

Timothy Egan, a frequent op-ed contributor to the New York Times, wrote this punchy tribute to public lands . . .

At dawn the woodpeckers start in, hammering heads against tree trunks, and you wonder if there’s a better way for a bird to make a living. Oh, the avian migraines. Twilight lingers till nearly 11 p.m.; if there’s a decent moon, you can fish in the silver light of Montana’s longest days.

When the sun is high, you swing from a rope tied to a cedar tree and drop into the great grip of the Kootenai River current, then swim back to the raft, to float and cast a fly line and look at ospreys and take in the grandeur of this land — your land, my land, an immense national forest.

Teddy Roosevelt left his initials on the outside wall of the community hall of Troy, a little shrug of a town along the river. But he left much more than that here in the far corner of northwest Montana and all over the West: an endowment to every American, rich and poor alike, their inheritance of public land.

Read more . . .