HELENA – A state House committee has heard testimony for and against a bill that would create a task force to study the feasibility of the state assuming ownership or management of federal land now run by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
Proponents cited loss of access to forests, the increasing threat of wildfires and pests such as mountain pine beetle and other problems under federal management as reasons for supporting the study of state management.
Opponents said the idea of turning over control to the state doesn’t have merit, and a study is a waste of time. They acknowledged that problems do exist on federal land, but added that there are collaborative ways to address them.
Rep. Kerry White, R-Bozeman, brought House Bill 496 before the House Natural Resources Committee on Friday, saying the task force would help answer questions about land management in Montana.
“I think that’s what this study is trying to get is the answers on how we as the people of this state can make a difference,” White said. “Can we do a better job of managing our watershed and our clean air and clean water and an environment for wildlife habitat? The state does one heck of a good job managing our land.”
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Source: Associated Press, Flathead Beacon