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Members of our group, Public Land/Water Access Association, feel that State Land Board member Matt Rosendale torpedoed the Keogh Conservation Easement Proposal at the September Land Board meeting. Three generations of the Keogh Ranch family, 10 miles north of Whitehall, have always allowed recreational use of their property and worked around the large numbers of elk, deer and antelope on their extensive ranch.

Although Rosendale did a thorough research of the easement proposal, in my opinion, he opposed the proposal for all the wrong reasons. The money that would be used for a portion of the easement would come from hunting license dollars within the Habitat for Montana program. All groups at the hearing, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Jefferson Valley Sportsman’s Association, the DNRC, as well as others were in favor of the proposal.

It appeared that Rosendale’s priorities cling to his background as a developer, as is sometimes typical of a new-to-Montana landowner. He also adheres to his party platform plank which mandates transfer of public lands. The transfer of public lands in Montana to private ownership absolutely inhibits recreational opportunities. Rosendale should understand that Montana recreationists are willing to “pay to play,” and that Montanans want to keep their public lands in public hands. The Keogh Conservation Easement Proposal included access to adjoining Forest Service and BLM lands, so recreational uses would be available into perpetuity.

If the Keogh Conservation Easement had been accepted by the Land Board, it would have protected key elk, deer and antelope habitat, as well as water rights and existing agricultural uses forever. Now, generations of recreationists will be the biggest losers.

Tony Schoonen, director