HELENA — A legislative panel Thursday voted to advance a report on how to encourage more state involvement in management of federal lands in Montana — but not before changing it to say transferring those lands to the state should be considered a “last resort.”
The Environmental Quality Council, made up of legislators and citizen members, also amended the report to say the governor should convene a “federal lands committee” to coordinate land management with federal officials.
However, the panel voted against recommending a bill to create a similar, permanent subcommittee within the council.
The votes came one day after the 16-member council sparred over the report, as Democrats said its original version had a “hidden agenda” of promoting transfer of federal lands to the state.
In recent months, some conservatives in the West have been pushing the transfer, saying state management will enable quicker decisions on logging, mining and other activity on federal public lands, to help local economies.
Opponents say the transfer is a radical, political longshot of an idea that would saddle the states with unaffordable management costs and perhaps lead to selling some of the lands to private interests.
Council members on Wednesday decided to re-edit the report and bring it up again Thursday.
The report, as approved Thursday, makes 11 recommendations on managing federal lands in Montana, including creation of the federal lands co ...