During his run for the Senate, Matt Rosendale claims to have had a change of heart about public lands, telling the Montana media that he realized that Montanans didn’t support the transfer that would inevitably lead to the sale of the land to private interests.
We’ve already discussed how this revisionist history means that Rosendale not only had to change his views about public policy but the entire Constitution, but we haven’t offered a deep dive into just how committed Rosendale was—and likely still is—to the agenda of those who want to turn our public lands over to the highest bidder.
It’s isn’t pretty, and it shows just how deeply Rosendale was linked to some of the worst grifters and con men in the West and it shows that even under the most generous interpretation of history–that he’s not lying now to win votes–Rosendale showed horrific judgment about public lands and those he chose to support.
Rosendale proudly proclaimed his work with the leading proponent of federal lands transfer, the American Lands Council as recently as 2014, telling an audience at the North Valley Pachyderm Club that he’d been working with the outfit for half a year to jumpstart the movement to transfer public lands:
I know you all are very familiar with and that the control and management of these federal public lands. I’ve been working with a group for about six months now called American Lands Council. They’ve got a ten-state coalition and we’re trying to get the momentum going to take control and management and the ownership of those federal public lands.
While running for Congress, Rosendale promised an audience in Kalispell on March 27, that he would be “the point man” on public lands transfer in D.C. From Republican Senator Jennifer Fielder, now the CEO of the American Lands Council:
U.S. Congressional candidate Matt Rosendale said he not only supports TPL, he will be the point man in Washington DC to transfer control of federally managed lands away from the gridlocked east coast bureaucracy and place decision-making authority in the states where it belongs.
And Rosendale made it clear his plan was not to protect those lands for hunting, fishing, and recreation, but to open them up to development. He told the Havre Daily News that, working with the American Lands Council, he hoped to ensure “the lands would be used better for recreation and resource development.”
And that’s just what the ALC plans to do all over the West. In 2015, the Los Angeles Times reported that the group wants “to wrest control of vast swaths of land from the federal government and turn them over to the states,” and turn over federal land to oil leaseholders, all-terrain vehicle tourism, and rare-earth mineral mining.
This exploitation of resources is at the heart of the ACL pitch that Rosendale enthusiastically supported. ALC’s talking points in 2012 claimed that Utah alone had “trillions of dollars” of resources locked up in public lands and Fox News touted the ALC movement as one that could pave the way for oil drilling across the West.
And a massive expansion of drilling and mining are essential to the lands transfer movement. Proponents like Rosendale pitched a fantasy of booming state coffers from resource extraction that ignored fluctuations in resource value, damage to tourism and other recreation revenue, and incalculable cost to future generations.
Back in 2014, when Rosendale was endorsing the land transfer proposal and attending meetings with its leadership, the Billings Gazette published an estimate that land transfer would leave Montana with a $367 million dollar annual deficit from lost federal payments, increased firefighting costs, and increased maintenance expenses.
The costs would go far beyond economic losses. Montana would likely lose a way of life built on the public use of these public lands that would be turned over to multinational corporations for get rich quick extraction schemes.
Writing in Field & Stream magazine, Hal Herring offered a description of those who support federal land transfer, a description that might have hit a little close to home for Rosendale, a former Maryland real estate developer:
soft-handed politicians in business attire, dreaming of riches and a transformation of our country that will bring us into line with the rest of a crowded world where only the elite and the very lucky have access to wildlife, open spaces, rivers and lakes, and the kind of freedom that we have for so long taken for granted.
Any discussion of Rosendale’s support for ALC and its public lands transfer aims has to include Representative Ken Ivory, who started the American Lands Council and who rather transparently used the organization to enrich himself. From the Salt Lake Tribune:
The complaints focus on Ivory’s practice of traveling the West, promoting land transfers to county commissioners and conservative groups and signing them up as dues-paying members of ALC.
“It’s not simply a question of Rep. Ivory speaking his mind about what he thinks should happen. He is soliciting on the promise that if you give us money, we can get public land returned to your state,” said attorney Anne Weismann, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Accountability.
The Los Angeles Times reports that most of the money ALC raised went directly to Ivory and his wife, with High Country News reporting that “Ivory made $135,000 as president of the ALC in 2014, accounting for half of the group’s revenue, which comes through memberships to counties, businesses and individuals.”
Matt Rosendale wants Montanans to believe that he has changed his position on public lands transfer despite a record of saying that the Constitution doesn’t permit federal land ownership in the West, support for a huckster’s organization that’s bilked governments across the West for its anti-public lands agenda, votes against access for hunters, and his support, in 2018, for “the biggest rollback of public lands protections in state history.”
His own words make his view clear:
Even if Montanans were to believe, despite his record, his words, and his deeds, that Rosendale has truly changed his views about public lands transfer, why would we ever elect someone to the Senate who showed such poor judgment just four years ago? I, for one, certainly don’t believe his conversion regarding public lands on the way to Damascus, but even if it happened, he’s shown that he lacks the judgment to protect Montana lands and our way of life.
Tomorrow: Rosendale’s anti-public lands agenda and extremist movements.