This Land is Your Land: At Least Until TEA Partiers Give It to Real Estate Moguls and Stick You with the Tab

transfer public lands
 Jennifer Fielder

Taylor Rose (left) with MTGOP Vice-Chair and American Lands Council CEO Jennifer Fielder

GOP Vice Chair Jennifer Fielder has published a screed in the Billings Gazette telling us that the shrinking land takeover group she runs has met and decided to keep pushing its land takeover scheme.  This in spite of the fact that “for many on both sides of the aisle, no issue seems as wasteful, ill-conceived or dead on arrival as the transfer of public lands.”  Indeed, Montana’s legislature has panned this idea over and over, and a University of Montana poll found that 2/3 of Montanans oppose the idea.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know that any time you hear a TEA Partier spout “give greater control to the states” they’re talking about hokum that wouldn’t fly under any kind of serious analysis, but would do just fine in Sanders County militia land where they believe wildlife research on local bear populations are part of a conspiracy to conduct surveillance on the militia movement. (No joke.) We already know GOP attorneys general from 15 western states, including Montana’s own Tim Fox, found that this land takeover nonsense is a veritable garbage fire in the legal viability department.

But just because an idea is ludicrous never stopped imbeciles in the TEA Party from beating Republicans over the head with demands to support it.  TEA Party land-boarder Matt Rosendale and Fielder, who is also a militia-affiliated TEA Partier state senator are still clinging to this unconstitutional land takeover scheme even though it is a financial black hole for Montanans and a nightmare for Montana’s economy.


Matt Rosendale, who depicted himself in a campaign ad shooting a drone out of the sky.

Matt Rosendale, who depicted himself in a campaign ad shooting a drone out of the sky.


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” so called 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 TEA Partiers may say “well let’s just clearcut log federal land to pay these costs.” The Idaho Department of Lands already thought of this, and came up with an estimate that the state could raise $50 million to $75 million annually in timber receipts from federal land.

But one simple 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.)

It would also create an 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.

Plus most people have already figured out that this whole nonsense is more about pushing state sovereignty anti-government uprising ideology. It’s certainly not about jobs or fiscal responsibility. It’s not that difficult to grasp that taking over federal public lands could cost also Montana taxpayers untold millions of dollars.




10 Comments on "This Land is Your Land: At Least Until TEA Partiers Give It to Real Estate Moguls and Stick You with the Tab"

  1. From the Bozeman paper, “A recent University of Montana poll shows two-thirds of Montanans oppose selling federal lands.”

    There’s a big difference between “selling” and a transfer between the Fed and State.

  2. RE: ” 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.”

    True, Cowgirl.

    It would be nice if folks like Senator Tester, Governor Bullock and groups like the Montana Wilderness Association recognized this fact, instead of just ‘collaborating’ with the timber industry and local/county-level Republican politicians to pimp for more taxpayer subsidized industrial logging on America’s public national forest lands, including more logging in critical habitat for grizzly bears, lynx and bull trout….global economic realities & America’s public lands legacy be damned.

  3. I personally had two of the young ALC punks on my property a couple of months ago , and they were handing out their literature . When I looked at their literature and seen that was about the ALC , I proceeded to give them a lecture about what I thought about their organization .I then asked them If Jennifer Fielder was their boss and they both denied that, saying they did not know her. The one punk started getting angry and acting like he was ready to punch me out.
    I think he thought better as he was standing on my property . I think they were quite surprised that this old man actually knew about their radical idea’s .

  4. It’s the ALC/ALEC-Tea party version of the 1930’s NY Yankees’ famous Tinkers-to-Avers-to-Chance triple play: take the land from the Federal domain (which can afford the overhead), pass it to the state (which can’t afford the overhead) and who will be forced to sell (“privatize”) it to the Koch Bros, Mars, Switchback, or like. State ownership is just a step along the way . . . Try suggesting that states can have it, but subject to a Homestead Act-like resale restriction: only 80-160 acres to any subsequent entity — that’ll take the “fun” out of the idea!

  5. Yeah Charlie! Like maybe the Veterans Homestead Act 2017? I’ve been pushing this idea for some time. I know personally 50 or more veterans who don’t want to live with the Flatlanders and are doing their own “homesteading” now-only it’s in our public parks and State & Federal Forests. They call us homeless and that may be true but there is something we can do beyond more shelters and social workers. I would love to have 320 Acres, hell, give me 20 acres and I can be self-supporting and my children will have a chance to thrive. I’d even be happy with the same below-market lease deal many mining, timber and grazing corporations get. For that matter I fail to understand why wealthy “environmentalists” don’t bid on grazing contracts and then just keep livestock off of the land. If you love bears and wolves so much pony-up and rent them some more room to thrive. The cost of a new BMW could lock up 10,000 acres for 20 years. If Liberals are going to survive Drumpf we are going to have to be really creative!

    • “Veterans Homestead Act of 2016”? Give veterans more than the “wind”?? Bob, you must be seriously silly . . . BOHICA! Wealthy “environmentalists” could help by bidding up grazing leases, then not stocking: more drought + same grazing load = elk in Huntley corn fields (No, without any wolves).
      — Tripwire Carlos

  6. I agree with the second half of the comment ‘it’s not environmental protections that dictate how much logging is done–it’s demand for timber in the free market economy’. I think both are significant factors in how much logging is done. And to nit-pick Mr. Donnes’s comment, I thought it was the Cubbies’ Tinker to Evers to Chance double play. I agree with his general conclusion though. This is a bad idea for economic reasons, and I, like other commenters, don’t see any upsides that would override the economics.

  7. If natural resources were going to be developed to be used only in the US I would be more sympathetic. Unfortunately a handful of moguls want to develop and sell as much as they can overseas to make as much money as they can. They don’t care if they turn Montana into a moonscape or leave any natural resources for future generations.

  8. I can see the wilderness from our back yard, I can see people go driving up the road that leads to the wilderness most days, to enjoy the pure enjoyment of being far from the maddening politicians. I can see the prices the Forest service allows this area’s trees to be sold for, on the internet. I can also see the prices we have to pay for lumber we can buy at the local lumber yard. I can see how long a piece of immature timber will last when I apply it to some projrct and then come back in a few years and see it’s condition has become rotten when the hundred year old wood that has been exposed to the weather for many years is still nearly whole. I can see we do not allow our forests to mature properly before cutting them, and my forest service friend who had the title of forester attached to his name tag agrees that it takes trees about 500 years to grow into the timber that we can use for real lumber. I can see that opportunistic people are capable of swaying public opinion to influence the creation of profits for a few luumber barons instead of the needs of Americans to stray from the insanity of modern life to witness the reality of nature for just a while. Do any others notice this?

  9. Howdy folks, Just saw this action alert about another scheme to take over the management of federal public lands in Montana and give them to the Montana DNRC to serve up lumber to the logging industry for the next 100 years.



    The Lake County Conservation District (LCCD) in Montana has been working on a novel approach to take over management of Flathead National Forest land in the Swan Valley. The Swan Resource Management Study vaguely outlines a plan to take control of 60,000 acres in the Swan Valley in Lake County which then would be managed by the Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) for logging over the next 100 years.

    The LCCD seems to believe that these federal lands represent a cash cow for the county to use for various unnamed projects even though most federal timber sales lose money and DNRC doesn’t have an adequate accounting system to track its costs to see whether they make money from timber sales.

    There are obviously flaws with the whole premise of controlling just the timber output on federal lands but the LCCD has been moving along with this since 2014 and is soliciting public comments about whether to proceed with asking Congress to authorize the transfer of management. These are federal public lands and they belong to everyone in the U.S. not just Lake County or Montana residents.

    The Swan Valley is rich in wildlife and biological diversity. These wild lands are critical habitat for lynx, bull trout, grizzly bears and other fish and wildlife. Allowing the County to have management jurisdiction for purely logging and its associated roads will adversely affect the habitat for many imperiled animals and fish as well as water quality.

    According to their website “LCCD residents, especially those with property in the Swan Valley, will be asked their opinion. LCCD wants to know if there is adequate local community support to request Montana’s governor and legislature to begin working on State legislation that would support the establishment of the proposed Conservation Forest. Conversely, LCCD wants to know if the study should be suspended and the idea of a Conservation Forest tabled.”

    In an undated letter on the website it says that environmental groups, Lake County residents, legislators and others have been notified of the public meeting on December 7th at the Swan Lake Clubhouse at 6:30 pm. However, even though Friends of the Wild Swan attended the previous meeting in 2014 and submitted comments we have not been notified nor have Lake County residents.

    Please attend this meeting if you are able or send a letter to the LCCD and Lake County Commissioners — tell them:

    • This is a bad idea and no more taxpayer funds should be spent on it,

    • These wild lands are too valuable for their clean water, fish and wildlife and must be maintained for those values,

    • These are federal lands that belong to everyone in the United States, not just Lake County residents. Any activities on Forest Service land must be in compliance with federal laws like the Endangered Species Act, National Forest Management Act, Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

    We need to let them know loud and clear that their proposal is not a viable option for our precious public lands.

    For more information go to:

    Send comments to the LCCD at or by mail to 64352 US Hwy 93, Ronan, MT 59864
    and to the Lake County Commissioners at or by mail to County Courthouse, Room 211, 106 4th Ave E., Polson, MT. 59860

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