Any move by our county commissioners to transfer federal land to the state is alarming. Public lands are one of the great benefits of living in the United States. These lands provide clean water, healthy big game populations, places of spiritual solace, and so many other unquantifiable values. This is true if you live in New York, Florida, or Montana; they are common lands for all Americans.
At every meeting I’ve been to or read about regarding the transfer of land to the state or county, the reasons eventually boil down to money. It’s about development and privatization, about logging, mining, or some other form of development (often disguised as forest health). The phrase “People have a hard time understanding something they make money off of not understanding” directly applies here. Throw a little paranoid world view about government, socialism, or the environment in the mix, and look out.
Values such as healthy ecosystems, clean water, outdoor skills, spiritual benefits, or that nature has an intrinsic right to exist (the list could go on), are never mentioned by those who wish to transfer land from federal ownership. Having grown up in Texas, a state with limited federal land, I’ve seen first-hand how access is primarily limited to a “pay to play” basis. Outdoor recreations such as hunting are centered around land that one must lease to use (i.e. limited access). We are blessed to live near federal lands that benefit everyone.
It’s a shame that the far right tea party’s me-first mentality has hijacked true conservative values regarding public lands that benefit us all. Early on I tried to give the movement the benefit of the doubt, but it seems rooted in anger, fear, and a mentality of everyone out for themselves. Hardly the values the United States were founded on. The Bitterroot is suffering from the damage the commissioners and their cronies are inflicting.