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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Feb 08 2021

Another Legislature, Another Transfer Bill

Lawmakers just won't leave defeated and discredited land transfer legislation alone

Another legislature, another bill seeking to set the stage for the sale and transfer of public lands. 

It took lawmakers less than four weeks to introduce a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing bill focusing on defeated and discredited land transfer ideas. 

The latest culprit, house bill 320, isn’t actually new at all. It’s the same bill that lawmakers introduced in 2015. Montanans roundly rejected it then and have made it clear that they have no patience for any attempts to transfer federal public lands, now or ever. Doing so would be catastrophic for Montana. It would cripple Montana’s economy and jeopardize our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. It would hamstring public access and force public land users to pay for the privilege of using public lands that used to belong to all of us. It would threaten the outdoor way of life that makes Montana special. And it would do so while lining the pockets of the developers and special interests who would benefit from the inevitable privatization of public lands.

Stop Transfer Now

Ever since radical anti-public-lands legislators led by Jennifer Fielder (who’s now the CEO of the transfer-pushing American Lands Council) introduced transfer legislation back in 2015, Montanans have repeatedly and overwhelmingly rejected any and all attempts to sell or transfer public lands. Across the state, there is simply no appetite for transfer. The only proponents are a small group of extreme legislators who continue to attack the access, jobs, and outdoor way of life Montanans have depended on for generations. 

So what’s in the actual bill and why is it a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

On the surface, the bill seems reasonable; it’s titled  “An Act Prohibiting Future Sales of Land Granted or Transferred to the State.” So far, so good. Dig a little deeper, though, and the pretense is obvious.

Here’s the crux of the issue: this is just an effort to pull the wool over Montanans' eyes to make land transfer seem more palatable. There is nothing stopping future legislatures from introducing new laws that would facilitate the sale of any federal lands transferred into state ownership.  

Just like it was six years ago, the plan is obvious: transfer federal lands into state hands, pass new laws, and then auction these lands off to the highest bidder. 

Time and again, Montanans have rejected this plan, but extreme legislators just won’t let it die. They’re out of touch and think they know better than the people they’ve been elected to represent. Just like we have for the last three legislatures, we’re ready to amplify the voices of Montanans who love and respect public lands and help them defeat - again - this wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing bill that’s bad for access, bad for the economy, and bad for our outdoor way of life. 

You can add your voice by sending an email to your representative and asking them to stand up against this defeated and discredited legislation. 

We’ve defeated transfer bills for three legislatures running, and together we’ll make it a fourth.

Noah Marion
State Policy Director

Noah works to develop state-level policies to protect and enhance our public lands, waters, wildlife, and access to outdoor recreation. He works with elected officials and partners as MWA’s lobbyist in order to advance conservation priorities at the state legislature. He enjoys rafting, fly fishing, backcountry skiing, hiking, and road trips with his wife and two dogs.
Email Noah