Tag Archives: public lands

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Alert: Public lands grab efforts move from states to U.S. House

A heads-up from Debo Powers . . .

Let’s get out our pens and start writing letters to Congressman Zinke to oppose HR3650 and HR2316…….or better still, call his office (406-225-3211).

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee will hear the new bills on Thursday. HR 3650 would allow any state to claim ownership of up to 2 million acres of national forests, roughly the size of Yellowstone National Park. A second bill, HR 2316, would allow states to seize 4 million acres of national forests for clear-cut logging.

Read the whole story here:


UPDATE: The Montana Wilderness Association has an online form that makes it easy to zip off a message to Rep. Zinke. You can find it here. It’s best to replace the text of the auto-generated email message with your own words, though.

Brian Sybert: The antidote to anti-public lands extremism: Finding common ground and working together

Big Therriault Lake - Kootenai National Forest
Big Therriault Lake – Kootenai National Forest

Here’s a pretty straightforward op-ed from the MWA’s Brian Sybert on public lands issues and the importance of working together to address them . . .

It’s been near impossible to miss the headlines about armed extremists and radical politicians trying to destroy our national public lands legacy. From Washington, D.C., to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, selfishness and delusional interpretations of the U.S Constitution have come together in support of a disastrous agenda aimed squarely at one thing: taking national public lands away from the American people.

But neither the armed militants at Malheur nor the suit-clad lands transfer zealots in Utah and D.C. have anticipated how much the American people, Westerners in particular, value public lands. In January, Colorado College released its sixth-annual bipartisan Conservation in the West Poll, showing that Western voters, including Montanans, see American public lands as integral to our economy and way of life and overwhelmingly oppose efforts to weaken and seize those lands.

The poll also revealed that Westerners strongly support people working together to find common-ground solutions to public land challenges, and herein lies the antidote to the toxic anti-public lands agenda represented by the likes of the Bundy gang and the American Lands Council. Community-driven collaboratives not only result in the protection of wild places, the creation of new jobs and the advancement of our public lands legacy, they also nourish our nation’s democracy.

Read more . . .

Gloria Flora: Why I resigned over a public land dispute

An excellent, well-researched op-ed on the current public lands debate . . .

Once again, a provocative armed display of dissatisfaction with a federal land management agency is unfolding—this time, at a remote wildlife refuge in southern Oregon. It’s been happening since 1848, when Mexico ceded the southwest quadrant of the United States after losing the Mexican-American War. Early settlers were primarily Mormons and Confederate Civil War refugees, both fiercely anti-federal government. Those attitudes haven’t changed much.

In the late 1990’s, when I served as Forest Supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada and eastern California, the simmering anti-federal government animosities boiled over dangerously multiple times but failed to garner much notice. Now, we’re seeing a similar boil-over in Oregon. The Nevada-based protesters, despite confusion over history and the exact purpose of their one-sided stand-off, are demanding privatization, to give the land back to “the people.” It sounds compelling, but it’s invented history.

The federal government created the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the focus of this standoff, by usurping the Native American Pauite Nation’s homeland, then, years later, aggregating their abandoned reservation and a used-up cattle ranch bought at a premium during the Depression. The Malheur occupation today sounds a battle-cry of frustration from unwanted proxies who believe they speak for the people of Harney County. Clearly, the interlopers have their facts wrong. But their hair-trigger reaction to a situation reminiscent of their grievances deserves a closer look.

The heart of the matter is that the human dimensions of managing public lands are just as important as the physical and biological dimensions. We Americans love our landscapes. Those who spend a lifetime on the land, like ranchers, connect with it even more deeply…

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