This winter, an old debate over public lands in the West reignited. Screaming about the Constitution and freedom, a self-styled militia spearheaded by the Bundy family took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
Federal legislation to transfer control and even ownership of federal land to states has got the attention of the National Wildlife Federation, a sportsmen's conservation group whose president on Friday called for all sides to work together to manage public land.
This week, Idaho senators met to vote on a new bill that would let county sheriffs, commissioners, and mayors decide if an area of federal land is at risk of wildfire, and demand that the federal government fix it.
Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, proposed legislation in the Senate Resources Committee today that’s nearly word-for-word identical to an American Legislative Exchange Council model law aimed at allowing local officials to declare a “catastrophic public nuisance” on public lands if they think there’s undue risk of wildfire there, and “demand abatement.” If the state or federal agencies don’t comply within 30 days, they’re to consult with attorneys.
The violent capture of the leaders of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupation in Oregon two weeks ago and the continued siege of the federal refuge by four armed militants is an ill-conceived move to draw national attention to an issue that has plagued Montanans and other Westerners for the past four decades. Unfortunately the sentiments that led to the occupation and the heated discourse that fueled it continue to persist.