The Gazette asked: Should federal public lands in Montana remain in U.S. ownership, be sold to private owners or transferred to the state?
Montana’s U.S. Senate candidates answered:
Dirk Adams: Democrat
Federal public lands should remain in U.S. ownership. There is a great expense involved with owning those lands. Some who wish to transfer those lands into state ownership do so from anti-federal government, states’ rights position. Others, however, recognize the cost of owning those lands and see in it an opportunity to compel logging in order to cover the costs of owning that land.
We need to retain land held by the public, by all Americans. In Montana, in particular, we know the value of open spaces, wilderness, and the ability to access those places. The best way to do that is to allow those lands to remain in our collective ownership.
Dirk Adams of Wilsall is an attorney and rancher.
John Bohlinger: Democrat
I believe federal public lands should remain federal public lands, for all to enjoy. If the lands were sold and no longer public, we the people would be denied access to this new private property. If the lands were transferred to the state of Montana, we would then be responsible for fighting forest fires on these lands. The cost of fighting fires on state of Montana lands can run between $30 to $50 million dollars annually, we can’t afford more firefighting costs!
John Bohlinger of Helena served eight years as lieutenant governor in the administration of Democrat Brian Schweitzer. Earlier, he represented Billings districts in the Legislature as a Republican.
Steve Daines: Republican
As a fifth-generation Montanan, I know that Montanans — not Washington bureaucrats — know best how to manage our land. We must empower the people of Montana and our state and local officials in land-use decisions. Montanans know what is best for Montana land. That’s why I’m fighting for policies that ensure that Montana communities and local elected officials have more control and input as to how federal lands are managed. Strengthening the authority of local and state governments and directly impacted Montanans is critical to protect our state’s economy and Montanans’ way of life. Montana’s public lands are an important part of our state’s heritage, and the federal government needs to treat our lands like the treasures we know they are — sources of unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities, life for agriculture and livestock, and a wealth of rich natural resources.
Steve Daines of Bozeman is serving his first term as Montana’s sole U.S. representative.
Champ Edmunds: Republican
The compact of statehood promised, and the Framers of the Constitution envisioned, that federal lands would be granted back to the states for local control. In Montana, the federal government controls over 24 million acres of land. Our forests are full of disease, harmful insects, and excessive tinder, all of which make for dangerous conditions. It's time to return these lands to Montana so that we can manage our forests, protect private property, implement responsible and sustainable harvest programs, and reap the economic benefits that come from well-managed lands. Along with that, we need to have full control of all wildlife management policies within our borders.
Champ Edmunds of Missoula is a state representative.
Roger Roots: Libertarian
I am in general support of paying off the entitlement debts that have been irresponsibly run up by the Democrats and Republicans by auctioning and transferring ownership of federal lands, bases, and monuments to the private sector, along with federal assets such as the Hope Diamond and various works of art. Access to certain federal treasures, such as Yellowstone and Glacier Parks, should obviously be preserved, and this can be done by way of conservation easements and the pooling of private resources such as in the model of the Nature Conservancy. In any case, I will work to make national parks and forests self-sustaining through entry fees and user fees.
Roger Roots of Livingston is a lawyer and college instructor in sociology and criminal justice. He degrees from Montana State University Billings, Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
John Walsh: Democrat
I do not support any proposal that prevents Montanans from accessing the public lands they own and enjoy. We value our outdoor heritage and public access to public lands is a right we must protect and preserve for our children and grandchildren. Our forests, parks, rivers, lakes and refuges are also a vital part of a multi-billion dollar tourism economy that supports small businesses and their families. Privatization would threaten our freedom to hunt, fish and hike the land we share, and our focus should be on securing what we have rather than selling it off to the highest bidder. While Congressman Daines has supported selling off our public lands, I will fight to make sure that Montana’s public lands stay open and accessible.
John Walsh was born and raised in Butte and served for 33 years in the Montana National Guard. He was elected lieutenant governor in 2012 and appointed to the U.S. Senate this year.
Political newcomer Susan Cundiff of Missoula filed for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, but did not respond to a Gazette invitation to answer questions for print.