All is not well with America's public lands

Tomorrow and Saturday (May 19-20) the Beartooth Front Community Forum – “a grassroots, nonpartisan organization that seeks to retain and enhance the quality of life in the Red Lodge, Montana area”  – will host a two-day event called “Knowing the Land”. 

The implication, for the uninitiated, is that this organization provides a neutral platform for speakers to engage with a public audience.  However, the lineup of topics and speakers indicates this meeting is designed to put the failing federal land management model on a pedestal, pat bureaucrats and environmentalists on the back, and promote the narrow views of the “lock it up and let it burn” crowd who are sponsoring this meeting.Copper King Fire, 2016

If the organizers genuinely intend to host an informed discussion or even a debate about the best path forward for America’s public lands in the context of this forum, why not include other points of view that tackle the tough issues head on?

Just consider, in the same week – yesterday (May 17) – the federal lands subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee convened an important hearing on “Better Management of America’s Overgrown, Fire Prone Forests”.(Video link on YouTube)

In the background note for the hearing, the committee notes:

The Forest Service’s anemic forest management efforts, both in terms of administrative obstacles (e.g., cumbersome planning processes, high costs and analysis paralysis); and legal obstacles in approving forest management projects, exacerbate the ongoing forest health crisis.

Moreover, why don’t the organizers  foster a discussion about improving the health and vitality of public lands, for the benefit of the communities affected by those lands, for those who utilize those lands for their livelihoods, as well as those who utilize public lands in their free time for recreation and solitude?  

Perusing the list of speakers, an entire panel features individuals who represent government agencies and another contains many “single issue” organizations.  A panel entirely focused on the “transfer of public lands” apparently will only feature speakers who are against the idea. Curiously, that panel lacks anyone with expertise who might present the rationale for this idea, or to provide a counterpoint to the overall discussion.

Listening to the expert testimony presented at the Natural Resources Committee meeting this week, it’s useless to pretend that all is well with the state of America’s public lands. In fact, it’s counterproductive.  At present, the Beartooth Front Community Forum meeting will be nothing more than  preachers and a choir singing the praises of the status quo, and possibly asking for your time or money to further their left-leaning political agenda.  They will undoubtedly demonize the growing movement of people across the country who support a serious change in public lands management to overcome decades-long gridlock, to improve access, and to support healthy communities and economies for real.


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