We have example after example where politicians are “all talk no action.” Federal agencies have a “block public land access for a radical environmental agenda” and opposition to hunting opportunity.

Government agencies, politicians detriment to public land access

I am not one who will accept the ill-conceived notion that politicians and government agencies have done much for public land access in Montana. The facts prove otherwise. Any access provided was accomplished in spite of these agencies and politicians who were forced into action through legal action or public pressure.

The first battle to access state lands was started in 1982 by three upland bird hunters who were harassed and illegally chased off a state school section next to Bureau of Land Management public lands, north of Malta. Thirteen years of research, data collection and persistence proved the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, then called the Department of State Lands, was wrong. It showed School Trust Lands are public under the Montana Constitution 1972, Article X, Section 11 and Montana statutes. On April 21, 1991, Gov. Stan Stephens signed House Bill 778, which allowed public access on 5.2 million acres for recreational use at a $5 charge only to the trust for 12 months. DNRC and politicians fought us all the way all the time!

Even today DNRC and the Montana State Land Board will not admit state lands are public lands. Today the same politicians we are supposed to trust — which I don’t — sold nearly 70,000 acres of our state lands. They were sold illegally since not a single acre was inventoried for public access, wildlife habitat, antiquities under the Montana Antiquities Act, historic values and other public resources BEFORE being sold.

Even worse, the State Land Board uses a rigged appraisal system to place dollar values ONLY on livestock unit months and timber values. The values mentioned above are not worth a dime to the land board; it’s a cronyism system and they want it that way. The buyer wants our surface land cheap for just the values mentioned. The system is misleading and fraudulent under Montana Statute 77-401 and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice 1973. Our 70,000 aces of public lands were sold dirt cheap and money needed for the school trust is fraud; we lost more than we got in return. Subsurface and dollar values won’t be mentioned by the Land Board, why?

The new public land access road near the Big Hole River north of the Hogback took two years of effort by one individual to force the BLM to reconstruct the new road under a court order by a federal judge. BLM fought the road from day one. If that road had not been reconstructed, the public would have lost access to thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and hunting opportunity. Not one politician, agency, anyone — except a few ranchers — supported the road, and not a dime was collected from anyone.

We have example after example where politicians are “all talk no action.” Federal agencies have a “block public land access for a radical environmental agenda” and opposition to hunting opportunity.

Will the myth ever end that federal lands will be transferred to the Montana Land Board to sell?

Federal Public Land Laws prevent the transfer and sale of public lands, including the subsurface. The laws can only be changed by the U.S. Congress – and it will never happen. It’s a political dupe! BLM and Forest Service lands are public under the laws to be held forever in public ownership.

Remember the Sagebrush Rebellion? Do you know what killed it? It was the subsurface mineral estate. Subsurface mineral estate cannot be transferred, case closed.

I know that U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., supports retention of all public lands. He is a sportsman, A+ by NRA, Montanan and very honest, but his opponent voted 11 times with the Land Board, which includes Gov. Bullock, on selling of our public state lands dirt cheap — 70,000 acres now and that tells all.

Montanans must take very seriously what politicians and federal agencies are doing to deprive us of our hunting heritage. Don’t forget that on Nov. 8.

Jack D. Jones of Butte worked as a wildlife biologist in Montana for 36 years with the Bureau of Land Management.

Jack D. Jones

Montana Standard

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