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Commissioners did the right thing


The public spoke and the county commissioners listened.

Recently, south valley legislative representative Theresa Manzella scheduled a meeting with the commissioners to ask them to meet with Karen Budd-Falen.

Westerners are certainly familiar with Budd-Falen, or if they’re not, they should be. She is a Wyoming attorney who never met a national forest or national grassland she could love. She’s made a legal and political career of fighting conservation groups and by representing Cliven Bundy, another anti-public lands zealot whose name is well known to those who love our public lands.

Budd-Falen rejects the very concept of public lands and works around the west supporting the “transfer” of public lands to state and local control, which is just a euphemism for the ultimate goal of selling off our public lands to private buyers.

Manzella’s pitch to the commission was confusing and not particularly well thought out, and it seems she was relying on her status as Republican legislator to make her case for her. It appeared that she wanted the commission to meet with Budd-Falen publicly for four hours on Nov. 17 to write a growth policy or write amendments to the five-year-old natural resource policy. It was not really clear what she wanted and the commissioners, understandably, were a bit baffled. But to their credit, they were also skeptical. They asked probing and thoughtful questions that Manzella seemed unable to answer coherently.

In fact, Manzella, and other fellow travelers in the “just say no to public lands” movement, fail to answer a lot of questions. She simply cannot make a case that the costs or owning and managing public lands in the west can be borne by state or local taxpayers. She cannot explain how local or state ownership of federal public lands is even constitutional – probably because it isn’t. She doesn’t explain whether the odious public lands transfer idea extends to all public lands in the U.S. Or is it just the Bitterroot National Forest she wants taken out of public hands?

More importantly, she cannot answer this simple question: Who supports the transfer of our precious public lands into some other ownership, be it local, state or private? The answer to that one is easy: No one, except ideologues who oppose all things public, including schools. The American people certainly do not support turning over their public lands to anyone.

In the end, the commissioners listened to the 20 or so people, all members of Bitterrooters for Planning, who attended and urged their elected representatives to reject a meeting with Budd-Falen.

Manzella was not prepared for the questions the commission had for her, and had no allies in her support. Ultimately, she agreed to extend personal invitations to the unnamed local individuals who she said agreed to fund Budd-Falen’s trip here, and to hold the meeting at an unidentified private residence. She extended invitations to the commission, but she had no takers.

The commissioners did the right thing and they deserve public recognition for it.

I hope the voters recognize that in Theresa Manzella, Ravalli County has an elected representative to the Montana Legislator who supports transferring national forests to, ultimately, private ownership. If you support the notion of keeping public lands in public hands, then please don’t support Theresa Manzella.

Carlotta Grandstaff

Bitterrooters for Planning

2 Responses to Commissioners did the right thing
  1. K Muller
    November 14, 2017 | 1:48 am

    With all due respect to Ms. Grandstaff, she said “The public spoke and the county commissioners listened.” NO. That’s not true. I watched the meeting after the fact. Her group spoke negatively against having Ms. Budd-Falen coming to speak even going so far as to threaten disruptions if she was allowed to speak! Her group does not represent everyone. I have no problem hearing what Ms. Bud-Falen has to say. In fact, I don’t understand why anyone would deny Ms. Bud-Falen the right to speak. I always like to hear both sides and am not afraid of words. Ms. Manzella was not promoting the transfer of public lands and I find Ms. Grandstaff’s letter disingenuous in her description of the Commissioner’s meeting. Her final sentence is also a direct contradiction to Ms. Manzella’s voting record.

  2. Theresa Manzella
    November 12, 2017 | 3:47 pm

    This letter is in response to Carlotta Granstaffs op-ed dated Nov 9th.

    While Ms. Grandstaff is welcome to her own opinion, she can’t have her own facts. The last line of Ms Grandstaffs opinion piece reads “I hope the voters recognize that in Theresa Manzella, Ravalli County has an elected representative to the Montana Legislator who supports transferring national forests to, ultimately, private ownership. If you support the notion of keeping public lands in public hands, then please don’t support Theresa Manzella.” That statement is a lie and I challenge Ms Grandstaff to produce any document that indicates that I support public lands sold to private ownership.

    What I have said, and what my public voting record clearly indicates is as follows:

    At this point, which agency owns the land is not as important as how our public lands are managed.  We all want healthy air, water, and wildlife, abundant outdoor recreation and safe, vibrant communities, but nearly everyone in Montana knows that federal policies enacted by distant politicians in WA DC are producing very poor results. I find the unhealthy air quality and economic devastation created by lack of proper management unacceptable. 

    The Environmental Quality Council, on which I serve, found that twenty-two thousand miles of the 32K miles of roads on U.S. Forest Service lands have now been closed to multiple uses. The federal government has cut off way too much access that should be left available for recreation, initial attack firefighting, search and rescue, and resource management.  We must implement significant reforms to responsibly reduce wildfire threats, protect our environment, enhance hunting opportunities, revive our economy and keep access to public lands open. 

    Democrats and Green Decoy groups like to say that if public land is transferred to the state, we would “sell off the public lands to the highest bidder.”  That is a patently false claim.  For over 100 years Montana has managed 6 million acres of state-owned public lands, and we have done a very good job of it. We protect the environment, prevent wildfires, produce valuable commodities that provide jobs and revenues for public services, and we outperform the federal government economically at a rate of about 5 to 1.

    Last session (2015) I supported SB274 to ensure public lands are kept public, HB 496 to study the feasibility of the state assuming management of some federally held public lands, and SB309 to incentivize more access to public lands. Finding ways to secure better management of public lands will continue to be a high priority for me. 

    Rep Theresa Manzella, HD85

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