Monday, May 23, 2022

Montanans should vote to preserve public lands

| August 5, 2020 1:00 AM

A recent survey by the University of Montana revealed information about how Montanans feel about our public lands and how we use them. The phone survey of 500 registered voters was done by Republican Lori Weigel, a Republican pollster with New Bridge Strategy and Dave Metz, a Democratic pollster with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

The survey’s findings indicate that more than three-quarters of Montanans visited public lands 10 or more times in the past year, and roughly two-thirds regularly camp, hike or run on trails according to Freelance Writer Alex Sakariassen.

Among numerous other findings, the survey also revealed the following:

• 89% of Montana voters have visited state-run public lands, and 88% have visited federal public lands, in the last year.

• 79% of Montana voters consider themselves conservationists.

• 81% of respondents favored continuing to treat the state’s Wilderness Study Areas as they are now.

It is incredible that the UM survey revealed 89% of Montana voters visited state or federal lands last year, some 20 times or more.

It logically follows that voters who utilize public lands so often will vote for legislators and politicians who respect their wishes and protect their public lands. Sadly, it isn’t necessarily so. An internet search will reveal numerous articles discussing why voters vote for politicians who have not, and will not ever represent their interests, regardless of the political party. In the case of Montana’s public lands it is easy to determine which politicians will protect your public lands and which politicians will not protect them.

The Montana Republican Party Platform states that they want to privatize our public lands. Page 13 “We support the granting of federally managed public lands to the state….”

Montana Democratic Party Platform Page 8 “Oppose: Any net loss of publicly owned lands, including any proposal to sell off federal public lands or transfer authority of federal public lands to local or state governments.”

Public lands in Montana belong to everyone. Everybody knows Montana cannot afford to manage our public lands and would have to sell them. Thus, privatization, which is an effort by the wealthy to take public lands away from Montanans.

Will 89% of Montanans who use public lands at no cost, go to the polls? And will they vote to preserve our public lands legacy and preserve that legacy for future generations, or will they vote to give them away?

Harold Johns of Butte is a hunter, fisherman and conservationist.