HELENA — A study of federal land management problems in Montana roiled a legislative panel Wednesday, as some members said the report has a “hidden agenda” of transferring ownership of federal lands to the state.
“This state is not for sale,” said Rep. Bill McChesney, D-Miles City. “This state cannot afford to assume ownership of federal lands. … I think there are hidden agendas here. I’m just going to say it.”
McChesney and other Democratic members of the Environmental Quality Council said they wouldn’t support releasing the draft report, which they said is biased in favor of Republican views of public-land management.
Sen. Jennifer Fielder, R-Thompson Falls, the sponsor of the bill that led to the report, noted it does not recommend transferring federal lands to state ownership or management.
“None of the recommended legislation would transfer (land), either,” she added. “We’re recommending to work cooperatively with the (federal) agencies to try to solve this problem.”
However, Fielder agreed to have the report re-edited and brought back to the Council on Thursday, for a possible vote that would ask for public comment on the report.
Ultimately, the report is supposed to recommend what the 2015 Legislature should do to address problems with federal land management in Montana.
Supporters of the report Wednesday said it’s meant as a “first step” toward more collaboration with federal lan ...