Montana has 30 million of acres of national forests, parks and other lands, which would cost $340 million to manage if they were transferred over to the state. The MT GOP platform calls for a takeover of federal lands. Sen. Jennifer Fielder is leading the charge by requesting 20 bills on federal land management this session. SJ 15 passed in 2013, requiring an “Interim study on public land management,” which was conducted by the legislature’s Environmental Quality Council. The legislature will decide what to do with this report during the 2015 legislative session.
Efforts to seize public lands are being pushed despite public opinion. A majority of Montanan’s do not want to foot the bill of managing lands according to a bipartisan poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies. The same poll found that 68% of Montanans believe that public lands belong to all Americans. Business for Montana Outdoors, representing over 100 business owners, oppose federal land transfer as it is too costly.
Montana’s Enabling Act states “That the people inhabiting said proposed States do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof.”
2015 Public Lands Legislation
- Senate Bill 215: An Act Prohibiting Future Sales of Land Granted or Transferred to the State; Amending Section 77-2-302, MCA; and Providing an Immediate Effective Date
- Senate Bill 274: An Act Prohibiting the Sale of Federal Land in Montana; Repealing Sections 77-2-401, 77-2-402, and 77-2-403, MCA; and Providing an Immediate Effective Date.
- House Joint Resolution 19: Emphasizing the value of public lands in Montana to the state’s economy, recreation, heritage, and quality of life; and opposing any effort to claim, take over, litigate for, or sell off federal lands within the state of Montana.
- House Bill 496: Establish public lands task force
- Senate Bill 298: Enforce provisions of the enabling act regarding sale of public lands
- House Bill 541: Revise laws related to property right sales
- Senate Bill 348:Revise consent for lands purchased by the U.S. for national forest purposes