Public land”sell off” myth to put to rest October 20, 2014 By Senator Jennifer Fielder – Montana State Senate District 7
In response to confusion caused by certain environmentalists that claim our public lands would be”sold to the highest bidder” if federal lands are transferred to the states, leaders of the Transfer of Public Lands (TPL) effort from all western states recently gathered in Salt Lake City, Utah to set the record straight.
State and local elected officials representing hundreds of thousands of Americans convened with leaders of public land user groups and a variety of experts at a national convention of American Lands Council (ALC) Oct 7-9, 2014 to officially define goals for transferring some federally controlled public lands to willing states.
The resulting public policy statement (attached) was ratified unanimously to make it clear the focus of shifting to state based public land
management is centered on providing better access, health, and productivity on public lands while maintaining public ownership of the lands and
protecting existing uses.
All involved agreed to exclude existing National Parks, Indian
Reservations, Military Posts and congressionally designated Wilderness
areas from the requested transfer, instead focusing the effort on the need to access, health, and productivity on general forests and grasslands
currently under control of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land
There’s substantial evidence supporting the viability of state public land management — too much to list here. But I will point out that western
states, including Montana, already successfully own and manage millions of acres of state public lands, employing responsible natural resource
management and providing a variety of beneficial uses and good jobs, while enhancing wildlife habitat as well as recreational and hunting
opportunities, and funding state and local government.
In sharp contrast, increased federal control and failing federal policies have resulted in steady declines of access, health, and productivity on federal lands as well as diminishing payments to state and local
Let’s not forget that it is the federal government that is in dire debt and, as such, has the most motivation to sell the lands and reduce federal payments in lieu of taxes that many rural counties rely on. And Congress has unilateral authority to sell the land without state consent.
Furthermore, statehood Enabling Acts require 95% of any funds generated by sales of federal lands to be deposited in the national treasury, leaving states with little to gain by selling the land. States would do far better by keeping the lands in state ownership and managing them efficiently to boost our natural resource, recreation, and tourism economies.
Unfortunately, some public officials, candidates, and organizations,
including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, have taken a position against the land transfer, seemingly based on the”sell off” rhetoric promulgated by certain environmental lobbyists instead of hearing the facts from
credible leaders most knowledgeable on the subject.
Elected officials such as myself who have been intensely studying this
issue and representatives of the American Lands Council are available to meet with interested organizations and public officials to fully explain the economic, environmental and legal evidence favoring state management, as well as answer questions, hear ideas, and work collaboratively toward meeting the objectives identified in the Public Policy Statement, below and attached.
American Lands Council Public Policy Statement
Ratified by unanimous consent Oct 9, 2014 at ALC Multi-State Workshop
Salt Lake City, UT and Oct 20, 2014 by American Lands Council Board of
*1. **WE URGE THE TIMELY AND ORDERLY TRANSFER OF FEDERAL PUBLIC LANDS TO WILLING STATES FOR LOCAL CONTROL THAT WILL PROVIDE BETTER PUBLIC ACCESS, BETTER ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, AND BETTER ECONOMIC PRODUCTIVITY;*
*2. **WE SUPPORT EXCLUDING EXISTING NATIONAL PARKS, CONGRESSIONALLY DESIGNATED WILDERNESS AREAS, INDIAN RESERVATIONS, AND MILITARY
INSTALLATIONS FROM THE TRANSFER; AND *
*3. **WE SUPPORT EQUIPPING FEDERAL, STATE, AND LOCAL AGENCIES WITH
RESOURCES NECESSARY TO PLAN FOR A SUCCESSFUL TRANSITION TO STATE-BASED
OWNERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT OF THE TRANSFERRED PUBLIC LANDS; AND*
*4. **WE URGE MANAGEMENT PRIORITIES FOR THESE LANDS THAT WILL: *
*i. **IMPROVE PUBLIC ACCESS:* Protect public access, rights of way, and multiple-uses on public lands for all people including sportsmen,
tourists, recreational users, subsistence and sustenance activities, and emergency access; and
*ii. **IMPROVE ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH:* Reduce catastrophic wildfire fuel loads that threaten communities, infrastructure, watersheds, critical wildlife habitat, and our environment. Facilitate restoration of healthy forests, range lands, and waterways; and
*iii. **IMPROVE ECONOMIC PRODUCTIVITY: *Secure jobs and economic
growth through responsible natural resource stewardship and use including tourism and recreational opportunities; and
*iv. **RETAIN PUBLIC OWNERSHIP OF PUBLIC LANDS:* Federal public lands shall become state public lands to be managed in accordance with state and local plans; and
*v. **IMPROVE EFFICIENCY OF WILDFIRE CONTROL:* Provide state, local, and tribal government with adequate wildfire prevention and control
resources and develop interstate/interagency cooperative agreements
necessary to combat wildfires effectively; and
*vi. **INCREASE LOCAL INVOLVEMENT & ACCOUNTABLITY:* Ensure state-based public land management activities are consistent with local government
plans, policies, and objectives; and
*vii. **PROTECT USE RIGHTS: *Protect all valid existing rights and
multiple uses, and enhance the viability of compatible, land-based
*viii. **PRESERVE CUSTOMS & CULTURE:* Preserve and protect important
wild, scenic, cultural and economic resources; and
*ix. **INCORPORATE FEDERAL AGENCY EXPERTISE:* Seek to utilize federal expertise and research through employment and/or cooperative agreements; and
*x. **GENERATE SELF-SUPPORTING FINANCE:* Foster compatible economic productivity to support essential government services such as local roads, utilities, emergency services, public health and safety, education,
justice, and other civic functions while reducing tax burdens on citizens nationally and offsetting federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools funds.
An official copy of the American Lands Council Public Policy Statement can be found at http://www.americanlandscouncil.org/policy_statements
Video of the national press conference announcing the policy statement can be viewed at: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vda-2kdwaHg]
For more info, to help, or to request a presentation visit
Senator Fielder can be reached on the web at www.jenniferfielder.us by
email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail at P.O. Box 2558, Thompson
Falls, MT 59873.
Senator Jennifer Fielder
Montana State Senate - District 7