Quiet Waters: Silencing Montana's People Too?

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Last year, a group calling itself Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) submitted the “Quiet Waters Initiative” petition to Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission (FWP Commission).

Couched in terms of avoiding future conflict, the BHA portrayed its petition as being “proactive” and forward thinking, attempting to regulate a future that hasn’t yet come to fruition. At its core, though, it equates to another “lock-it-up” land grab from the political left, this time on public waters instead of public lands. The proposal is based on conjecture rather than evidence.

mtfwpq.pngHundreds of concerned outdoor enthusiasts have flooded the Commission’s hearing rooms to voice opposition. Unfortunately, Commission members are appointed by the Governor, not elected by the people. As such their level of accountability to the people is nothing like that of an elected representative. Regardless of the extent of public comment against it (as well as the fact that the terms of several Commissioners have currently expired), the Quiet Waters Initiative is still very much on the table and the Commission may still make it a miserable reality.  (The public comment period ends on February 12, 2017.)

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115th Congress Creates Opportunity for Public Lands Reform

PRESS RELEASE - for immediate release

January 13, 2017

The American Lands Council welcomes the members of the 115th U.S. Congress, who began their legislative session last week in Washington, DC. One of Congress’s first orders of business was to pass changes to its governing and procedural rules in House Resolution 5 (H. Res.5).

The ALC calls attention to a provision within H. Res. 5 that indicates foresight and willingness on the part of the 115th U.S. Congress to consider and hopefully undertake serious reforms to improve how public lands are managed within the U.S.:

“In the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress, for all purposes in the House, a provision in a bill or joint resolution, or in an amendment thereto or a conference report thereon, requiring or authorizing a conveyance of Federal land to a State, local government, or tribal entity shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending, or increasing outlays.”  (Page 35, H. Res.5, 2017)

Jennifer Fielder, CEO of the American Lands Council, remarked:
"The 115th Congress is off to a great start with this simple change in its procedural rules to facilitate bringing public land management closer to home. It is a refreshing sign of hope for the vast number of Americans who are concerned and outraged about the flagrant disregard by the U.S. federal government when it comes to how federally controlled public lands have been mismanaged on their watch. The balance has tipped too far towards distant, unaccountable bureaucracy and the results have been devastating to our rivers, prairies, forests, and wildlife.

"It is imperative to reverse the increasingly unhealthy, unsafe, inaccessible, and unproductive conditions that characterize federal lands today, and nobody is more eager to improve stewardship than the States where these lands are located. This change in Congressional rules is a step in the right direction for every American who desires a healthy environment, abundant and accessible recreation, and safe, vibrant communities."

Fielder specifically addressed claims that this change in rules amounts to “fiscal irresponsibility”, stating:

"In the past several decades, the U.S. federal government has been increasingly negligent in its public land stewardship, resulting in increased costs, declining revenue streams, and the demise of local communities.

"Just consider, the U.S. Forest Service now is a net drain on the U.S. taxpayer, whereas it formerly made a net contribution to local communities and the U.S. Treasury. Formerly prosperous communities which once thrived have now been reduced to poverty and reliance on federal handouts that amount to nothing more than 'western welfare' subsidized by eastern States."

ENDS

The American Lands Council (www.americanlandscouncil.org) is comprised of elected officials, resource experts, local governments, nonprofit organizations, public land users and citizens. The ALC seeks constitutionally-sound solutions to achieve responsible public access, environmental health and economic productivity on the federally controlled public lands within each State.

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ALC Comments on Senate Confirmation Hearing for Congressman Zinke

Ryan Zinke at CPAC, 2016"Congratulations to Congressman Ryan Zinke, a fellow Montanan, for his nomination to head the U.S. Department of the Interior,” said Jennifer Fielder, CEO of the American Lands Council.

"In remarks made at the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing [video link] [Zinke's written remarks (PDF)] yesterday, Congressman Zinke spoke eloquently about the diverse purposes that can be served by America’s public lands," said Fielder.

"Yet the reality today is that those purposes are not being fulfilled. Indeed, the federal government’s mismanagement of those lands, particularly in the western USA, has led to the demise of people’s livelihoods as well as environmental degradation — at an immense cost to the U.S. taxpayer."

Fielder explained: "We earnestly hope that Congressman Zinke will work to change this situation by working with local communities and states, as he has stated. While he adamantly maintained during the hearing that he opposes the transfer of public lands, it is still of utmost importance that he enables the U.S. Department of the Interior to tackle federal mismanagement head-on. This means implementing drastic reforms, imposing targets and timetables, and supporting the possibility and practicality of decentralized management, whether that is through local or state entities." 

(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

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Action Alert: Potential Closure of Montana Waters

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UPDATE (1/11/2017):  The comment period has been extended to February 12, 2017. 

The ALC urges Montana citizens to make their voices heard on proposed closures and restrictions on Montana’s waterways, entitled the “Quiet Waters Initiative”, before the quickly approaching deadline of January 13, 2017river fishing

Several public meetings are being held across the state in the next few days (see below), and email comments can be sent to: QuietWaters@mt.gov

The “Quiet Waters Initiative” is a proposed change in rules [PDF] by the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Commission (FWPC) which has been trundling along quietly in the background for some months now. It was unanimously voted upon by FWPC in response to a petition by the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

Rather than being based on compelling, site-specific evidence, it appears to be a speculative move to limit future access by enacting massive and unnecessary closures and restrictions on many key waterways in the state.

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No Safety For You!

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los-alamos-fire.jpgNO SAFETY FOR YOU! Otero County New Mexico developed a wildfire mitigation plan to keep their communities safe. But the federal government has taken them to court over it.

Here's the story as published in a recent AP article at the Washington Times…

 

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN - Associated Press - Friday, December 9, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A court ruling has dashed any hopes one southern New Mexico county had to address fire danger on national forest lands due to the inaction of the federal government.

The federal appeals court in Denver found that Otero County’s resolution to treat overgrown areas of the Lincoln National Forest along with a state statute enabling counties to take action under certain circumstances conflicted with federal law.

A 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel said the case was a question of constitutional power and that federal law pre-empted both the state statute and the county’s resolution.

New Mexico enacted the so called “self-help” law for local communities in 2001, just months after a prescribed fire on federal land escaped from managers and raced across tinder-dry mountainsides and into Los Alamos. The town was evacuated before the flames destroyed hundreds of homes and forced the temporary closure of one of the nation’s premiere nuclear weapons laboratories.

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Sad Site Visit to the Copper King Fire

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Recently Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder, who is an active leader with the American Lands Council, toured the scene of the Copper King Fire in Northwest Montana with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and others. This is what she had to say about her firsthand look at the aftermath of the 29,000 acre burn, and efforts to make some good of the disaster:

NOT GOOD: Tri Con Timber foresters listen as USFS District Ranger explains why it will take at least a year to begin harvesting the burned timber on federal land, and why so little of it will be made available.


 

"As we convoyed up a series of bumpy roads, every bend we rounded revealed a new glimpse into an eerie, endless sea of blackened forest. The light dusting of snow that morning created a stark visual contrast between each burnt tree and the snowy white ground.

It was sickening to see and smell so much devastation. Since that calm summer afternoon when the fire first broke out, many folks have wondered what went wrong. Who started it and why wasn’t the fire contained when it was small? Why were so many firefighters sent home just before it grew to astronomical proportions? What could have been done differently to prevent its spread?

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With Gratitude

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“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ― John F. Kennedy [Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1963]

thanksgivingmeme3.jpgAs we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, we express our gratitude to God for the liberties and freedoms that we enjoy in this country. We are grateful for those brave and committed persons who have done more than just talk about their support for the Transfer of Public Lands, but have actually stepped up and given of their time and funds to help us keep the vital movement for responsible, locally driven management of our public lands moving forward.

For those of you who support our objectives but have not yet joined us, we ask why not? ALC is fueled by member dues and donations, so we would be especially grateful if you would join, donate, or upgrade your membership HERE today.

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It's Amazing, Isn't it?

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It is amazing how far we’ve come isn’t it?  4 years ago, 5 county commissioners and 1 State legislator with 1 very big idea banded together and formed the American Lands Council (ALC).

Thanks to an incredible amount of dedication from countless members, volunteers, and supporters, we have ignited an unstoppable national movement.

The American Lands Council has educated millions, cultivated support of 1,000+ elected officials, developed a nationwide coalition of advocacy partners, and laid the foundation for a viable FEDERAL LEGISLATIVE PATH that protects public access, increases cost efficiency, restores accountability, and provides flexibility for State and Local governments in how our public lands are managed.

In addition to raising an army of unwavering State and local elected officials, we now have a Congress AND a President inclined to support reasonable Transfer of Public Lands legislation! 

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Election Results: Big Wins For TPL!

 

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Election Day 2016 saw huge and, in some cases, unexpected victories -- the foremost of which was the election of Donald J. Trump as the next President of the United States. While many underestimated his determination and ability to win, we never conceded that the election was the done deal early pollsters tried to make it out to be. Now that we know the real outcome, we at ALC are pleased to congratulate Mr. Trump and his running mate, the honorable Mike Pence, for their successful campaign and decisive victories. And we look forward to working with them and all Americans for the betterment of our nation! 

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Legislative Path for State Acquisition of Federal Land Outlined

3_Minute_Messenger_logo.jpgPublic_Lands_Caucus_at_UTGOP.jpgTransfer of Public Land Goals Reaffirmed at National Conference 

By Jennifer Fielder, CEO -- American Lands Council

 

Don’t we all we want healthy air, water and wildlife, abundant outdoor recreation, and safe, vibrant communities? Wouldn’t it be good to manage our public lands with these priorities at the forefront of every decision?

Unfortunately, Washington DC’s out-of-touch style is increasingly blocking public access, allowing pests and wildfires to ravage our environment, and killing rural communities.  

Last month, leaders from around the nation gathered for the American Lands Council (ALC) annual conference and, once again, unanimously reaffirmed support of ALC’s Public Policy Statement which “urges timely and orderly transfer of federal public lands to willing states for local control that will provide better public access, better environmental health, and better economic productivity”.

The ALC Policy specifically calls for keeping public lands public -- NOT selling them as proponents of federal control like to claim. In fact, our extremely debt-ridden U.S. government can sell public lands now, and they often do. Our critics never seem to mention that.

To be clear, ALC is not advocating transfer of National Parks, Wilderness, Indian Reservations, or Military Installations. Our efforts are focused on improving conditions on ordinary public lands that are supposed to be managed for multiple uses, but increasingly aren't. And despite rhetoric to the contrary, it is exactly that simple.

HOW WOULD IT WORK: We are pursuing concepts for a federal bill that would provide a mechanism allowing States to apply for specific tracts of federally controlled land as they are willing and ready to care for these areas responsibly. Under this framework, States could apply for small-scale pilot project areas first and, if successful, seek additional tracts in the future. Existing valid rights and uses would be honored and special safeguards would be built in to preserve public access routes. Such parameters would ensure no loss of public access while allowing State and local citizens to have a meaningful role in policy decisions. 

 

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