^p^p^pU.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke’s recent vote for a bill that would take up to 4 million acres of national forest out of public hands was a kick in the face to Montanans who support keeping public lands in public hands. Zinke has said time and again that he opposes transferring public lands, but actions speak louder than words when you vote for a bill like the Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act, HR 2316.
Zinke has tried to talk his way out of responsibility for his vote. But all you have to do is read the bill to see how it would transfer control of federal public lands away from officials charged with representing all the citizens of this country and into the hands of a four-person committee of political appointees. The bill would throw out the concept of multiple-use forest management, kick the public off of our national forests and drive politically popular projects with minimal engagement or public oversight. It would head us down the slippery slope to private ownership of our national lands.
If that is not a transfer of public land out of public hands, I don’t know what is.
Experience informs us that finding common ground on land management is not easy. It takes patience, understanding and time and above all else – trust.
Are there constructive things that our elected leaders in Washington might be doing to actually enhance the efficacy of current efforts to use local collaboration efforts by diverse publics? I think so! Some serious consideration and action on collaboratively-developed projects would be a good start.
You have free articles remaining.
The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act enacted in 2014 stands out as a highly successful collaborative effort. It originated at the ground-level, evolved from conversations over cups of coffee and through countless hours of people talking to each other. A success like this empowers the public to meaningfully engage in public land management at the local level.
Rather than voting for simplistic legislation that would exclude diverse public engagement in important public land decisions, Zinke should use his influence to support existing locally-driven efforts like the Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Project and bipartisan proposals like Sen. Jon Tester’s firefighting bills.
Nobody wins when our politicians tell us that they know better than the people actively engaged in local collaborative efforts. Many Montanans are working diligently to solve the problems that challenge those who live, work and recreate in our forests and other public lands.
They are doing so with the suite of tools provided by our public processes and by following the laws as they are written now. In contrast to top-down efforts from Washington D.C. to mandate new management schemes, our congressman should be supporting the work of these local people.^p
Tim Aldrich, of Missoula, is a founder of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers and a long-time leader of numerous other Montana outdoor conservation organizations.