Public Land transfer has come to the forefront of the news cycle in recent weeks after an armed militia group took possession of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. In this country, every citizen has the right to explore a vast expanse of wilderness. The individuals who occupied Malheur believe they should have the right to repossess this land for their personal interests.
While Montana has not seen an armed insurgency, in the 2015 legislative session many of our state representatives have attempted to pass bills that mirror the goal of transferring public lands to benefit narrow business interests.
During the 2015 legislative session, one of the largest crowds ever assembled at the capitol rallied against transfer. A recent survey from Colorado College showed that over 60 percent of Montana residents oppose the transfer of public lands. Elected officials in Montana who are continuing to push the transfer agenda can no longer claim they represent the will of Montanans.
Those supporting the transfer of public lands are coming from a position of self-interest. They do not care for the long term condition of the greater Montana community. They believe the natural resources set aside for all of us should instead be theirs to pillage for financial gain. It’s time to stand together and protect the Last Best Place.
One way to do this would be to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation at the state level. It would build and promote our outdoor industry while improving and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to support it.
We need to fight the transfer of public lands. We need to expand every citizen’s right to experience the West as it has been for thousands of years. We need more and better access to public lands, not the transfer of public land to corporate interests.