Montana Citizens to Rally for Public Lands

IMG_6618Gov. Steve Bullock addressing public lands rally in 2015.


Rep. Ryan Zinke was in the hot seat last week, getting grilled by Sen. Bernie Sanders about global warming. To his credit, he took a different position than his new boss, Donald Trump, who has famously said that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese government.

Zinke conceded that global warming is real and related to human activity. He even noted that while picnicking with his family in Glacier National Park he could see a glacier shrinking before his eyes. He tried to quibble a bit by saying there are a lot of differing opinions, but didn’t argue when Sen. Sanders asserted that scientists are in almost total agreement about global warming and its causes.

Zinke’s hearing was happening at about the same time that, according to a Washington Post report, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2016 was the hottest year on record, surpassing the previous record year, 2015, which beat out 2014 for that dubious honor. The world’s average temperature in 2016 was 58.69 Fahrenheit, 1.69 degrees above the 20th century average of 57 degrees. The world’s temperatures have set new records five times since the year 2000.

Here in Montana we were just emerging from another week of subzero cold, which seems ironic when scientists are complaining about global warming. In fact, in the U.S., 2016 was not the warmest year on record—just the second, though it was the warmest year on record for Alaska.

Of special interest to Zinke’s constituents in Montana was his restating his support of Federal public lands, though he also testified in favor of development on public lands. This, of course, was just a couple weeks after he voted in favor of a House rules change to make it easier to transfer public lands.

With Republicans in control of the White House, both houses of Congress and the Montana Legislature, our Federal public lands are at risk. Both the Montana and national Republican platforms call for transfer of public lands to the states. Many believe that this would be the first step in exploiting our lands for private gain, and, eventually, privatizing ownership of those lands.

If any readers accuse me of being prejudiced regarding this topic I concede they’re right. But, and it’s a major but, the call to transfer public lands is in the Republican platforms and I had nothing to do with it.

On the other hand, we, citizens have the right to peacefully petition the Legislature and to communicate our stands on public issues.

Supporters of public lands are holding a “Rally for Public Lands” at the Montana State Capitol at 12 Noon on Monday, January 30. This rally is sponsored by a number of organizations, including Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Wildlife Federation, Montana Audubon, Montana Conservation Voters and others.

In a mailer, they say, “This is your chance to let our elected officials know that our outdoor way of life defines who we are as Montanans, and we will always fight back against any attempts to seize the public lands that enable us to lead that life.”

Featured speakers at the rally include mountaineering legend, Conrad Anker, fly fishing guide and TV host Hilary Hutcheson, K.C. Walsh, CEO of Simms fishing company, and Governor Steve Bullock.

Montana public land supporters held a similar rally in 2015 and legislators got the message that our Federal public lands are not for sale, and a number of bills calling for land transfers died peacefully. Unfortunately, this is a message that needs to be sent again and again.

To make it easier for local residents to attend the rally, the Skyline Sportsmen have chartered a bus, which will leave from the Butte Plaza Mall parking lot at 9 a.m. on January 30. Call Harold Johns at 565-2064 for a reservation on the bus. If the bus gets overbooked, car pools will get organized.

I’m hoping there will be a big turnout at the Capitol. Those public lands are our public lands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *