Montana Politics

Must Read on Public Lands and the Public Trust

Sean Morrison has a must-read piece on the importance of keeping public lands in public hands in today’s Independent Record. From the piece:

It is easy to be cynical about government when nightly news is more dysfunction in Washington. That is not a reason to give up governing. We may disagree about how best to manage our lands and our streams. We may fight over how many hunting licenses to issue and we may disagree whether lands should be open to snowmobiles, horses or only snowshoes. But the view that the only way to preserve public lands is by taking lands and streams out of public hands forever is not a solution. It is giving up the task altogether.

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  • Very nice, we re in complete agreement!

    I just want to say … back in the late 90’s, Conrad Burns, working with people at the state level, concocted a plan to give all Montana federal lands over to state management. At the same time, Montana Republicans led by Tom Keating, were drafting legislation to privatize state lands. Conspiracy theorist that we were, we thought there might be a connection. After all, we uncovered a letter Keating had written to some Alaska people saying that the ultimate objective was to privatize those federal land.s. Interesting how we uncovered the letter – he gave me a copy.

    Working with Montana Wilderness Association, at that time not totally owned by Pew, we drafted an ad campaign to catch the public’s attention. The catch phrase was “Keep Public Lands in Public Hands.” I am so proud that the slogan has staying power and is still in use. Later on Montana Wildlife Association, at that time not totally owned by Pew, adopted the slogan as their own for an ad campaign.

    • Great article, Ron. The whole tragedy of the commons bullshit was SO misconstrued as to be unrecognizable to the author. I used to teach in a high school where the bio teacher taught the tragedy of the commons as if it were gospel. What bullshit nonsense. But then again, I remember when Colstrip used to PAY for all the teachers to come and get indoctrinated in the joys of coal development while thereby garnering their renewal credits for free! I think that they even got their college renewal credits that way. And industry was MORE than happy to supply all kinds of materials for the classroom! Sad, so sad.

      • You were a teacher? You are a perfect example of a teacher and “the other side”….keep up the good work, looney larry.

        • However, sir, I think it’s a good point poorly made maybe?

          The “Tragedy of the Commons” was given to us as irrefutable theory, and has been cited as near-gospel since. But such a theory does not hold up without a massive body of evidence examined to support its findings. It’s been my anecdotal experience that the commons, not the meadow at the end of the field, but the forests and national parks, refuges, monuments, and even to a degree the national forests are in very good condition – that is, I don’t know of any private forests that have fared any better in the last few decades. I’ve seen lots of overgrazed land. Anecdotal.

          BLM land is another story, but then that land is the lowest tier, the land that nobody wanted, used for grazing and such. People often point to BLM land as proof of mismanagement, but I don’t think that is fair.

          I just don’t think evidence supports tragedy in our commons.

          • HAMMER TIME! Is this you, lil’ dick? Are you really MC the dick Hammer?


            Can’t touch this!


            You’re a funny little person. BTW, lil’ dick, you never answered THE QUESTION! I did. Why can’t YOU?

            How much of that hated gummint money YOU suckin’ off’ Unca Sugartit?

            You can go away now, lifer. You tried, and you failed. Sorry, but I can’t feel your pain! For you see, everyone who posts here WORKS for a living. You don’t. Buh bye, dude. Buh bye!

  • Ah yes, the good ole notion that “seeking to maximize the economic value of the land” will actually benefit conservation, wildlife and wilderness protection. This idea was also espoused by Randy O’Toole in the 80s and 90s, with his book “Reforming the Forest Service” and his presence on various college lecture circuits. I remember one of O’Toole’s lectures at the UM law school around 2000 where he gave off a remarkably strong resemblance to Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, and appeared to just be making up on the fly his plan to transfer America’s public lands legacy into a series of private trusts.

    “…and then, environmentalists can buy up large swaths of Wilderness and old-growth forests. And then….”

    Big surprise, but O’Toole is now with the Cato Institute.

    Anyway, I have to wonder what Sean Morrison would think of Senator Tester’s plan to use Congressional riders to dramatically increase logging on a few National Forests in Montana by simply mandating and requiring that a certain number of acres be logged annually.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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