Why we are fighting to stop the American Prairie Reserve

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Parker Heinlein’s recent column (“Fewer cowboys? Don’t blame the American Prairie Reserve,” Nov. 1) is a perfect example of the derisive attitude that has turned so many Montanans against the American Prairie Reserve (APR).

How could anyone object, Heinlein wonders, to APR creating an “American Serengeti” in north-central Montana? After all, jobs in cattle country are low paying and antiquated, so why won’t these people just step aside and let the APR take over.

Apparently it will come as a surprise to Heinlein, but there are thousands of Montanans who live in the communities the APR wants to wipe off the map, and they don’t want to be displaced.

If Heinlein bothered to spend any time in eastern Montana, he’d find close-knit, thriving communities, with great schools, hard-working people, and an enviable lifestyle. The people who live in APR’s target zone live there by choice, and they don’t want to be forced out.

A federal land grab shows how no fences make bad neighbors

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By Terry Anderson and Roger Meiners

The U.S. Supreme Court shocked property owners in 2005 when it allowed the City of New London, Connecticut, to take the property of Suzette Kelo for a private development project. At least Ms. Kelo received some compensation.

No compensation, however, was required in a new blow to private property. This June, in the case of Wonder Ranch, LLC v. U.S.A., the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of the U.S. Forest Service to take a public prescriptive easement across private land to access public land.

Prescriptive easements are nothing new. The common law has long granted a permanent right for a person to cross another’s property if he had occurred for many years without an explicit “neighborly accommodation.”

Click here to read more in the Washington Examiner.

Governor Bullock wrong to eliminate Land Board oversight of conservation easement

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Eastern Montana shadows by Loren Kerns, CC BY 2.0

By Toby Dahl

Governor Bullock’s decision to eliminate the State Land Board’s oversight of multi-million dollar state conservation easements is troubling to say the least.

No elected official should have the power to spend taxpayer dollars so casually, without any checks or balances. That type of power breeds corruption. That’s exactly why the Land Board exists in the first place—to ensure that big, expensive land deals are handled properly.

In other words, the Land Board was established in our Constitution to prevent sweetheart deals.

Here are the details of the specific land deal that lead to Bullock’s decision to bypass the Land Board—you be the judge of whether a sweetheart deal occurred.

Wilderness Study Areas are making Montana wildfires worse

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By Rep. Bill Harris

This past year saw devastating wildfires across Montana—but none was so destructive as the Lodgepole Complex fire in Garfield and Petroleum counties. The Lodgepole fire was the largest in the country, ultimately destroying over 270,000 acres and devastating hundreds of families.

Could that destruction have been prevented? That’s a question that we can never answer fully. But one factor that undeniably made this fire worse was where it started.

The Lodgepole fire was sparked by a lighting strike in Sandage Coulee, in the heart of a Wilderness Study Area (WSA).

EPA’s overreach has real life consequences

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"Road to Nowhere" by John Fowler, BY CC2.0.

Joe Robertson’s story is a cautionary tale. Last year Mr. Robertson, a 77-year-old disabled Navy veteran from Basin, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined hundreds of thousands of dollars. His crime? Digging ponds on his property after getting a state—but not a federal—permit.

It’s cautionary because under the Obama administration’s agenda to control all the water in the United States, the EPA had hoped to make cases like Mr. Robertson’s the new normal. Plans were in the works to expand federal authority to impose heavy punishments on unsuspecting property owners for relatively pedestrian activities, like installing fences or digging ditches.

To get there, the EPA attempted unilaterally to expand their authority under the Clean Water Act. As written, the Clean Water Act applies only to “navigable waters”—those running from state to state. Protection of other surface waters was left to state regulators, which is one reason Montana has some of the toughest water quality standards in the country.