TEA Party Land Takeover Will Cost You Big $$$

TEA Party congressional candidate Matt Rosendale and a militia-affiliated TEA Partier state senator have glommed onto a likely unconstitutional land grab idea pushed by out-of-staters that is a financial black hole for Montanans and a nightmare for Montana’s economy and environment.

Here’s why the plot copied from Utah by Jennifer Fielder, the TEA Party state senator who is vice-Chair of the Montana GOP, and Rep. Kerry White (TEA Gallatin County) so poorly conceived and is more about pushing state sovereignty anti-government uprising ideology.   It’s certainly not about jobs or fiscal responsibility.

Our federal public lands are what make Montana so great. The TEA Party land grab targets the Rocky Mountain Front, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Beartooths, the Bitterroot-Selway, the national forests and scenic areas surrounding our national parks including Going to the Sun Road, and all of our national wildlife refuges and wilderness areas. These are the places where we go to ride horses, hike, hunt, fish, ski, bike or just relax outside with our pets, friends and families.  These public lands don’t belong only to the 2015 Montana legislature and the special interests who would sell them off– they belong to all Americans for generations to come. The GOP’s June 2014 platform does not include an exemption for national parks.

Perhaps most obviously, the TEA Party land grab would limit public access to public lands. If this TEA Party and grab succeeds many of these lands could be sold or developed, strip mined, strip malls. Whatever. Montanans can expect to encounter a whole lot of “No Trespassing” signs.

What’s more, the Fielder/White attack on our public lands could cost also Montana taxpayers untold millions of dollars. Consider what’s happening in Utah, the state which recently passed the dubious law which the MT TEA-bunch is modeling their land grab scheme after.  The Utah legislature’s own lawyers have said that the land grab bill will only trigger a costly and ultimately futile legal battle because it has a “high probability of being declared unconstitutional.” The litigation costs to taxpayers will likely run into the millions of dollars.

And that’s just the litigation to defend this unconstitutional nonsense. That’s not even including the cost to manage the federal lands, which Montana taxpayers would now have to assume.

In Utah, the federal government spends between $200 and $300 million per year managing public lands (including fire fighting)–Utah has about 35 million acres of federal land.

In Idaho, the federal government spends more than $300 million per year in managing public lands–Idaho has about 33 million acres of federal land.  These numbers also include the costs of fighting wildland fires.

If you’re wondering what the federal management costs in Montana are, consider that we have about 27 million acres of federal lands.

Compare that with the fact that the state of Montana can barely manage to fully fund its own state parks budget because legislators refuse to appropriate the needed funds.  The state of Montana spends a measly $600,000 in state funds to manage our state parks.  That means that’s the only state money the legislature would allocate to manage our state parks public lands–that doesn’t come from hunting and fishing licenses or federal funds anyway.  If Montana did gain control over federal public lands, Montana taxpayers would be stuck with the cost of managing federal lands too–to the tune of a couple hundred million.

Some right-wingers may say “well let’s just clearcut log federal land to pay these costs.”  In fact, the  Idaho Department of Lands came up with an estimate that the state could raise $50 million to $75 million annually in timber receipts from federal land.

But one cost not figured into Idaho’s estimate would actually negate any anticipated revenue gains.  That’s what are called “Payment in Lieu of Taxes” or PILT funds.  These payments make up for former timber revenues and compensating for the fact that counties can’t tax federal land–they amount to $58 million in Idaho.  If the lands weren’t federal, local governments would lose those funds. The situation is the same in Montana–and other states.  (Also, earth to the pro-logging crowd It’s not environmental protections that dictate how much logging is done –its demand for timber in the free market economy.)

That’s why TEA Party Republican Jan Brewer, who is Arizona’s Governor vetoed a land grab bill in her state because it would have overstressed the state’s budget and land management abilities. As the Salt Lake Tribune commented,

“[t]hat’s a much more logical view than the pipe dream held by Utah lawmakers, that the seizure of public lands would be a fiscal bonanza for the state.”

The White/Feilder TEA Party assault on our public lands is also bad for business.  Nearly eleven million visitors come to Montana each year, spending $3.7 billion dollars and supporting 13,000 jobs–largely to enjoy our public lands.  Just as important, our public lands are the single greatest reason why many people and businesses chose to locate and invest in Montana.  An increasing number of studies show that rural counties in the West with protected public landscapes see better economic and job growth than counties lacking protected landscapes. To the contrary, Feilder’s and White’s TEA Party agenda is to sell off and exploit – not protect and promote – our great places to fish, hunt, and recreate.

The White/Fielder plan will create enormous regulatory quagmire for grazing, drilling, and mining interests who now hold or are seeking permits and leases on our federally-managed public lands. This uncertainty will deter, not encourage, appropriate mineral, agriculture and energy development.  No business wants to come here and embroil itself in endless morass of risks and unknowns. This seems like an obvious point, but the TEA Partiers don’t seem to get it.

Finally, Fielder and White claim this is about “returning” federal lands to the state – the state never owned these lands in the first place, the federal government took them from Native Americans.  So if they are to be “returned” to anyone, it should be the tribes.

After all, just because an idea is ludicrous never stopped imbeciles in the TEA Party from forcing Republicans to swear oaths to support it.   Check out this TEA Party video of a GOP primary candidate forum co-hosted by the Flathead County Republican Women and the NW MT TEA Party Patriots.

The TEA Partiers asked only three questions.

Would the candidates support denying tribal sovereignty and water rights to the First Montanans?  (By blocking this, Republicans are costing the state of Montana yet more untold millions in legal fees through years of litigation.)

Would they reject federal funds to pay for 100% of the health are costs for 70,000 working poor and Veterans in Montana?  Montana loses $1.8 million every day that these funds are refused.

And would they support this unconstitutional TEA Party land grab to tank Montana’s economy, which would also cost the state millions.

The candidates answered as the forum organizers demanded – even though the TEA partiers’ ideological positions are the opposite of fiscally responsible.



20 Comments on "TEA Party Land Takeover Will Cost You Big $$$"

  1. Don’t you see that Fielder wants this stand off. That way she and her militia buddies can hole up in a bunker in Noxon and shoot at federal employees. How patriotic!

    It’s not about drilling and strip mining – for Feilder and the other wingnuts, its about giving the middle finger to the United States of America.

    They don’t care about the economics or fiscal conservatism– this is about not being a part of or even cooperating with the federal government – in other words, the early steps to secession. They don’t want to be a part of America any longer.

  2. Rosendale’s our man, protectin’ us from those ‘drones’ with his marvelous marksmanship…http://www.cbsnews.com/news/gop-house-candidate-shoots-down-drone-in-new-ad/

  3. Dear Cowgirl,
    Don’t for get the political career angle for the participants of this; free publicity in looking to climb the political ladder. Celebrity is huge currency in our society today. A cheap political publicity stunt sold as, “concern for an overreaching government,” keeps one’s name in the headlines. Ivory in Utah, and Fielder and Blasdel in Montana are showing national, and statewide political ambitions respectively.

    John Marshall

  4. Dear Cowgirl,
    I take back my previous comment. I’ve seen the light and a state takeover of federal lands is just what we need. If the state gains control over these lands, federal law will no longer apply, ( as Cliven Bundy says.) That means federal drug laws will no longer be applicable on all those lands.
    Think of the economic opportunity for the state! Clear cut all the trees and then replant the land with marijuana. Colorado and Washington stoners would buy everything we have.
    If the feds tried to stop us, we’d register every pot grower as a non profit 501(c)(3) social organization, and claim the fed’s attempt to stop the interstate shipment as violation of our 1st amendment right of political free speech!
    We’ll put the Mexican cartels out of business in 5 years! Heck we could then re-brand the state name to up our global presence. Montijuana or maybe Maritana, the Big Spliff Country. Oh the possiblities!

    John Marshall

  5. I won’t get too deep into this rehash of the 1970’s Sagebrush Rebellion, because I am actually arguing this in another forum, but there are some factual problems with your post that should be addressed.

    1) Let me make this clear up front – I am strongly opposed to the Ken Ivory plan to take over Federal Land.

    2) The Constitutionality of the Utah’s HB148 is still in question. While I think that the law will be declared unconstitutional, that is an opinion and it could go the other way. If you are interested in the legal arguments (and can understand a legal brief), one of the best I have read in support of the law is this one –


    This legal brief was prepared by a non-partisan group of law students and lawyers from all over the country. It raises some very valid legal issues with the way the Federal Government has assumed control of land from the state and while the law may be declared unconstitutional in toto, there might be some legal decisions made that will – in the future – allow the state to take limited control of some federal land.

    3) The financial cost of this plan in Idaho has already been – at least as an overview – officially assessed and it was concluded that the Ken Ivory plan could potentially profit the State to the tune of 51 – 75 Million dollars. The caveat to that is that the existing infrastructure to take advantage of the move is insufficient and new infrastructure (both public and private) would have to be built. I think the assessment is somewhat overly optimistic and I also think that the assessment didn’t take into account a number of factors (like the suits resulting from the loss of NEPA), but overall, Idaho could well see a profit from this move. Utah, on the other hand, probably wouldn’t. While I agree – to some extent – with what you said about PILT funds, there is reason to believe that that money would be absorbed in the transfer and coordination of the Federal/State agencies involved in the transfer.


    5) Regardless of who actually owns the land, there are still Federal rules that apply to public lands. The various federal rules governing these lands still apply and there will have to be coordination between state and federal agencies if and when these lands are transferred. The infrastructure doesn’t exist for this transfer yet and would have to be set up – all of which costs taxpayer money.

    Understand that the Ken Ivory plan does not transfer all public lands to the state. There are specific bounties that have been defined as part of the Ivory plan. Any financial analysis that is done has to take those boundary assessments into consideration.

    What NONE of the analysis have touched on is the relative ease with which these public lands could be sold to private interests once the transfer has been made. It is my opinion that within a decade of the State taking over the Federal lands, at least 50% (or more depending on the state) will be held in by either private citizens of private corporate entities. This is the primary reason I can’t support any state land grab.

  6. The central issue here is that federal public lands are grossly mismanaged under grossly miswritten federal laws passed in the post-Nixonian orgy. These laws gave undue power to enviros, just like the lack of laws prior gave undue power to corporatists. We still have yet to see a legal regime that gives representation and actual power to those people who would be most affected by the policies implemented on these lands.
    Never mind that under almost all other forms of ownership, similar lands make money. That’s state, local government, tribes and private ownerships. The feds lose taxpayer money.
    Then there is the issue of productivity and social benefit. By far, state land in Montana outperforms federal. By all accounts, tribal programs work out fine for the tribes. Private — not so much because private interests are what they are.
    But if the state took over the federal ground, in the long run Montana would be far better off. We’d sell some, sure, but only to anchor what we keep.

    • Dear Cowgirl,
      The central issue here is not the mismanagement of public lands by the fed. No, the central issue is a simple fact that no one who wants these lands turned over to the states wants to acknowledge; these lands, while managed or mismanaged by the feds, take your pick, are OWNED by the citizens of the United States of America. Mismanaged or not, it has to be okay with the majority of the owners, over 160 million people, to transfer the lands to individual states.
      More to the point, if Utah and Idaho or any other state want some of MY National Forest and Range lands, I want financial compensation to reimburse me for my tax dollars collected, decade after decade, that have supported these lands, and I only accept cash from states running deficits. No doubt many of my fellow Americans will feel the same way, be they a taxpaying liberal pre-op transgender in Florida, or a conservative Republican precinct captain in Iowa. No cash, no deal.

      John Marshall

    • Dave – you obviously have no idea what you are talking about. There have been at least seven distinct management processes used with Federal land since the early 1960’s. Some have worked fairly well, some have been unmitigated disasters. The primary problem with most of the management styles used (both federal and state) was the assumption that we were trying to “maintain the untouched lands”. The fact is, there is no such thing and attempting to “replicate” it has resulted in failure after failure.

      I find it interesting that as the Federal Government is just now adopting a management style that maintains as much natural beauty as possible while allowing for public use and resource extraction, the wingnuts want to take it all and give it to the state.

      Let’s be clear here. What is behind this move is private interests that want access (if not outright ownership) of these lands. As with anything political, you have to follow the money. Ken Ivory – the man behind this new Sagebrush Rebellion – is entirely financed by private interests that have been attempting to purchase large amounts of public land for decades. It is being sold to Tea Party idiots (and you, obviously) as some kind benefit for the states involved, but the real push is to privatize this public land. If you are took misinformed to recognize it, that is your problem.

      It is pretty academic in Montana, though. Of all the Western States looking at this, Montana is the only one that CAN’T do it. Our state constitution would be used to prevent this move even if the takeover was found within the bounds of the National Constitution.

      You can claim that the state would manage these lands better than the Federal Government but you are just pissing in the wind. There is no evidence whatsoever to prove that. Moreover, the opponents to this move CAN prove that this land is likely to be sold off to private interests if it ever does end up with the state.

      The interesting thing about it, though, is that Montana is one of the few Western States that could – theoretically makes a net profit off the move (assuming the lands remained public and current State policies about resource management were followed). It would require new infrastructure to be set up – both for mineral resource utilization and forest resource utilization – but even with the projected costs of this, the state would still likely make a net profit. The downside is that there is no way to prevent our wingnut legislature from selling off this land to private interests.

      • Murk,
        I understand the situation. While you are tied up in various process schemes, the real problem is the underlying laws written by 1960’s new lefties. And the results on the ground are pretty stark. I won’t defend PCL, they mowed theirs for cash to buy other ground elsewhere not tied up in the “slow belt” or in federal foolishness.
        But the states and tribes are rather effective and the results pretty satisfactory.
        And I have to laugh at John M. John, I would bet you really disapprove of absentee ownership as in trophy castles and big evil corporate ownerships. So tell me how absentee ownership by millions of Americans who have NO firsthand clue about federal lands except in the most abstract way, is better than state ownership and management under the oversight of citizens with a direct stake?

  7. I wonder where in the US Constitution does it say the Feds should be in the land business?

    • The third amendment of the Constitution and over 200 years of Constitutional law.

      • I think you probably intend to refer to Article IV, Section 3 (regarding the admission of states to the United States), which says, “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States…”

  8. Welfare Cowboy Bundy ain’t helping his religion if he’s a Mormon, along with his outrageous Racist comments like ‘blacks better off in slavery’, really? This deadbeat giving cowboys, Mormons and rural folks a bad, bad image as being intolerant, inbred, outright insane, etc…….recall the Freemen Militia, others like McVeigh out to kill, destroy and quite of few of the freemen were just failed farmers looking for an excuse why they bought too many expensive tractors with too little income.

  9. Matthew Koehler | April 27, 2014 8:12 AM at 8:12 AM |

    Why do some in the GOP hate America’s public land legacy and attempt to undermine it at nearly every turn?

    Honestly, when’s the last time some of these folks talked with reverence and appreciation for America’s public lands legacy and the tremendous benefits these lands bring all Montanans and Americans in terms of wildlife habitat, clean air and water, Wilderness and opportunities to find some peace and quite in a fast-paced world?

    The last time I checked, National Forest lands (not even counting BLM) in Montana contained about 32,000 miles of roads and the deferred road maintenance backlog on just these Forest Service roads was at $700 million. Would that $700 million expense come with your transfer proposal, Rosendale?

    How about wildfire protection costs? It’s estimated that by 2025 the cost for just protecting homes built within the Wildland-Urban Interface in Montana will be $124 million. Right now, the Feds pick up about 75% of that cost, but not with Rosendale’s transfer.

    And what all the other wildfire suppression costs not associated with home protection in the WUI? Right now, the Federal Government (and U.S. taxpayers) pick up the vast majority of those costs too.

    Oh, yeah, that’s right, if the state (and timber industry) managed all the National Forests in Montana there’d be no wildfires. Sure, just look at the Sula State Forest or all the Plum Creek Timber Co land that’s burned in recent years. Yep, logging totally prevents wildfire, right boys?

    In case it wasn’t obvious, Montanans and Americas love their public lands. It’s getting quite insulting that both the Montana GOP and the Montana Democrat Party seem engaged in a fierce “Race to the Bottom” where the only purpose public lands seem to serve is as mechanism for scoring political points through mandated logging schemes, gutting or exempting key laws such as the ESA and NEPA and curtailing public input.

    Bottom Line: Montana and America’s public lands legacy deserves so much more respect and appreciation than what we are seeing currently from Montana’s political “leaders.”

Comments are closed.