Tag Archives: public lands

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 . . .

Siege ended; battle over public lands rages on

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 New York Times has picked up on the public lands transfer issue . . .

BURNS, Ore. — A year ago, this corner of rural Oregon became center stage in the drawn-out drama over public lands when armed militia leaders seized a national wildlife refuge, arguing that the government had too much control of land in the West.

Now that President Trump is in office, people here and in other parts of the 11 states where 47 percent of the landmass is publicly owned are watching to see what he will do on everything related to public lands, from coal mining and cattle grazing to national monuments and parks. In Burns, some ranchers and others are feeling emboldened, hopeful that regulatory rollbacks by the federal government will return lands to private use and shore up a long-struggling economy.

But the change in administration has also spawned a countermovement of conservatives and corporate executives who are speaking up alongside environmentalists in defense of public lands and now worry about losing access to hunting grounds and customers who prize national parks and wildlife.

Read more . . .

House vote poses threat to 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.

Here’s a pointed discussion of Rep. Zinke’s vote in favor of a House rules change that would ease the transfer of public lands out of federal control . . .

Keeping federal public lands public is a big issue in Montana and the West. It’s an issue that Rep. Ryan Zinke campaigned on in his successful bid for re-election. In his first term, Zinke frequently described himself as a Teddy Roosevelt Republican, strongly committed to protecting and preserving public lands owned by the people of the United States.

He stated unequivocally that he is against the transfer of federal public lands to states. States such as Montana are rich in public land but lack the staff to manage our priceless American heritage. One concern about the land transfer movement is that cash-strapped states would turn around and sell the land.

So after Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, tucked a provision in the House Rules bill that could make land transfer legislation easier to pass, we expected that Zinke would have something to say about it. The House approved the rules package 233-190 with the Bishop provision that exempts any future land transfers from the budget scrutiny that otherwise must be given to bills that would reduce U.S. revenue or increase U.S. spending. Zinke was among the GOP majority voting for the rules package on Tuesday, the first Congressional work day of 2017.

Read more . . .

Greg Zimmerman: Extreme views don’t represent most Montanans on 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.

This well-written op-ed concerning public lands transfer was posted in today’s Flathead Beacon. It is written by Greg Zimmerman, deputy director at the Center for Western Priorities. Interestingly, he quotes incoming President Trump as also opposing the transfer of federal lands to the states . . .

In her recent op-ed, Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder continued to perpetuate phony myths about American public lands in an attempt to prop up her naive attempts to dispose of them.

According to Sen. Fielder, Montana’s public lands are a trash dump, filled with pests and fenced off to the public. In her telling, the only thing that can save our public lands is for them to be given to the state.

Don’t tell that to the hundreds of thousands of Montanans streaming across the state’s public lands to hunt and fish, who certainly aren’t buying Sen. Fielder’s premise. On the contrary, public opinion research shows unequivocally that Montana voters value national public lands. And poll after poll shows that Montanans – like voters across the West – have little appetite for her misguided plans to “transfer” American lands to state or private interests.

This month’s election result further validates what the polls have been telling us for years.

Read more . . .

MWA: Zinke flip-flops on public lands transfer

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.

Rep. Ryan Zinke Voted in favor of an ill-considered public lands-related bill and the MWA is pretty annoyed. Election year posturing is such a pain . . .

In a recent op-ed, Congressman Ryan Zinke called himself a “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist.” He based that self-characterization on a few votes he made against the transfer and sale of public lands and for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. But his vote today in the House Natural Resources Committee in favor of H.R 2316 (the Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act) is far from Rooseveltian. In fact, it’s a direct attack on the legacy Teddy left us – our National Forest lands.

Read more . . .

Gov. Bullock unveils public lands agenda; opposes public lands transfers

Some upbeat news from the Montana Wilderness Association . . .

Today [June 9] was a good day for Montana.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock today unveiled a pro-public lands agenda that not only doubles down on rejecting the transfer of federal lands to the state, but also creates opportunities to expand conservation and recreation on our public lands.

“This is an issue that transcends party politics in Montana,” he said at a public lands event held at Riverfront Park in Billings. “It isn’t about what Democrats or Republicans or Independents want. It’s about doing what’s right for Montanans.”

The agenda includes four major initiatives aimed at increasing access, building Montana’s outdoor recreation economy, and supporting collaborative solutions for natural resource management. They include:

  • Rejecting all effort to transfer our national public lands to individual states or private interests
  • Creating of an Office of Outdoor Recreation
  • Creating a state “public access specialist” position
  • Calling on the legislature to unfreeze and fully restore Habitat Montana

Read more . . .

Poll: Growing number of Montanans believe public lands help jobs

It seems an increasing number of folks in Montana favor public lands . . .

Montanans across the political spectrum think federal public lands benefit the state’s economy and quality of life, according to a new poll released by the University of Montana.

“We found that support for national parks and conservation is about as popular and bipartisan an issue as you can find these days,” UM geography professor Rick Graetz said Wednesday. “There’s agreement in the state, on all sectors of politics.”

The poll of 500 registered voters throughout Montana took place on May 7, 9 and 11 by wireless and landline telephone interviews. It used the bipartisan team of Republican pollster Lori Weigel and Democratic pollster Dave Metz, who have cooperated on numerous other opinion surveys in the Rocky Mountain West. The poll had a margin of error of 4.38 percent.

Read more . . .