Brief Op Ed on Transfer of Public Lands

Transfer of public lands would benefit Montana By Senator Jennifer Fielder, R – Montana State Senate District 7Chair of SJ-15 – Montana’s Study of Federal Land Management May 10, 2014
It’s a big idea and it’s rightfully reaping big debate nationwide. Can andshould states assume control of federally held public lands within ourborders? Many colleagues and experts throughout the west have studied the issueintensively, and we now believe there’s no reason why we can’t. Thechallenge is to get the facts on the table, put protections in placeconsistent with Montana values, and prepare our state agencies for anorderly transition. We also have to educate decision makers and compelCongress to honor the Constitution and the terms of our statehood enablingacts which require federal title to be extinguished. The Nevada model for transfer of public lands would leave Wilderness, IndianReservations, Military installations, National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, andDept. of Energy facilities under federal jurisdiction. Utah’s proposal issimilar. Montana’s study of public lands shows Montanans want more multiple useaccess, reduction of wildfire fuels, and more economic production. Butfederal agencies systematically continue to do the opposite of what we want. Shifting to state based public land ownership would mean Montanans – notCongress, the President, or any other state – would decide how much access,use, protection, and production we would want to see. I cannot imagine any collection of people who care about Montana’scommunities, environment, and economy more than Montanans do. There is noquestion that 25 million acres of federally controlled public lands in ourstate directly impact our land, water, air, wildlife, economy, and people ina number of ways. The same cannot be said of states like New York, NewJersey, or Florida. With the national government facing insurmountable debt, the threat of thefederal government selling our public lands to the highest bidder isimminent. In fact H.R. 2657, which authorizes the sale of hundreds ofthousands of acres, passed out of a Congressional committee earlier thisyear. They can sell public lands without our input, and they areundoubtedly under pressure by foreign debt holders to do so. That’s a bigconcern. On the bright side, a multitude of studies reveal legal standing andeconomic advantages favoring state based public land management. Nevada’smost recent analysis shows a net gain up to $1.5 billion per year if theytake over management of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) properties in theirstate, even while maintaining existing uses such as recreational access,grazing, mineral, and other use rights. With states implementing a responsible balance of protection, use, andeconomic production on forest and rangelands, we could keep public accessroutes and recreation facilities open for all visitors, reduce wildfirefuels, and enhance wildlife habitat. Keeping resource revenues in statecould result in millions of new dollars available for local roads, schools,law enforcement, emergency services, utilities, state and local wild landfirefighting departments, and other services. Shifting to state based management would result in priorities consistentwith Montana values. Better access, more jobs, increased funding for publicservices, protection of our environment, and active prevention ofcatastrophic wildfires could become the rule rather than the exception. As Chair of Montana’s study of federal land management, I continue to assessavailable information and consider a variety of solutions to correctproblems with federal land management. I welcome your comments and questionsat Complete information about transfer of public lands can be found
JenniferSenator Jennifer Fielder, (R)Montana State Senate – District 7P.O. Box 2558; Thompson Falls, MT 59873Daily updates, legislative info, insider views:<> General Political/Constituent email: —This email is free from viruses and malware because avast! Antivirus protection is active.

By jenniferfieldermt

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