When Montana Gov. Steve Bullock stood before hundreds of camo-clad activists who descended on the Montana capitol in Helena last week and said, “I don’t want Montana to be recognized for a half-baked scheme that would endanger our public lands and our economy,” the applause was thunderous.
Sportsmen and women gather at the Colorado Capitol in Denver to oppose efforts to transfer public lands from the federal government to the states.
But the “scheme” is pervasive.
Montana is but one of a half-dozen or so states entertaining legislative proposals, bills or studies that, should they succeed, could transfer ownership of federal public lands to the states for management. In Utah, the state Legislature has gone from entertaining the idea to actually passing a bill in 2012 to seize those lands, and to act on the new law by spending $2 million annually in taxpayer money to educate and litigate. Utah’s law likely won’t pass a constitutional litmus test, and the so-called “deadline” for the transfer to take place came and went on Dec. 31, 2014, without a single acre changing hands. But Utah’s law appears to have emboldened uber-conservative lawmakers in states like Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Washington, as they to try to achieve similar outcomes.