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Montana Op Ed Viewpoint  Transferring Public Lands to the State will help Protect Them
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Montana Op Ed Viewpoint Transferring Public Lands to the State will help Protect Them



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  • 1. 1/24/2014 Viewpoint: Transferring public lands to the state will help protect them Viewpoint: Transferring public lands to the state will help protect them JANUARY 01, 2014 6:57 PM • BY ROBERT SMAUS For the last three decades, federal policies have continually reduced public access, killed our state and local economies, and brought national forests into a state of maximum combustion. That’s not good for our environment or the way of life we Montanans love. It was just a few months ago when the federal government decided our nation’s public lands were “non-essential”? During the shutdown, federal agents went out of their way to barricade national parks and monuments, halt wildfire fuel reduction projects, and prohibit concessionaires from selling the USFS’s mushroom and firewood permits to local citizens. They even ordered hikers and hunters to leave unsupervised wilderness areas – all because Washington, D.C. got in a tussle over Obamacare! I know full well that Friends of the Bitterroot, Bitterrooters for Planning, et al, have an agenda to push. Centralized planning and obstructionist management practices keeping sportsmen out of the forests and taking game and loggers from harvesting timber is their desire. The question is simple, who in their right mind would want a bankrupt, dysfunctional Washington, D.C. bureaucracy to continue wrongfully holding title to Montana’s public lands and resources? What is there to stop D.C. from auctioning off Montana’s public lands and resources to satisfy the national debt to China? Think about that. Our public lands in the hands of China – the world’s biggest polluters! They are about to construct a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, much like the Panama Canal. However, this canal will be through Nicaragua, and will traverse and destroy protected and highly sensitive rainforest habitat. This is serious business folks. If we really want to protect our public lands, we need to get them transferred from the federal government to the state as soon as possible so D.C. can’t mortgage away our children’s future any more than they already have. I know there are some good people working for the Forest Service. But unlike our federal partners, Montana balances a budget every year and manages millions of acres of state public lands responsibly and profitably, while protecting the environment, minimizing fire hazards, and both allowing and encouraging multiple use recreation. Our state is far more efficient at preventing and extinguishing wildfires too. Governor Bullock knows this and has publicly stated that Montana does a far better management job than Washington, D.C. Sadly, the federal government can’t live within their means, or even put together successful timber sales without being shut down time and time again. As a result, the increasingly intense wildfires on federally managed lands are decimating our wildlife by the millions, poisoning our air and water, and endangering our communities. As Utah Rep. Ivory repeated over and over in his presentation, under the Transfer of Lands 1/2
  • 2. 1/24/2014 Viewpoint: Transferring public lands to the state will help protect them Act, federally held public lands would simply become state public lands, managed for sustained yield and multiple use, but with the distinct advantage of local planning and public input. Montanans would decide how to protect and utilize our public lands, not Washington, D.C. or the big city folks from other states. What rational person could be against that? It is time for Montana to take rightful ownership of the public lands within our state, as was promised by Congress at statehood. I would like to thank Utah Rep. Ken Ivory for so eloquently enlightening us about this lawful option, and ask others to give this careful consideration before jumping to unfavorable conclusions espoused by the self-proclaimed champions of a notoriously dysfunctional federal government. Robert Smaus Hamilton 2/2