What We Bring to the Fight
Valley County is a large county, over 3 million acres with nearly half of that being BLM, CMR, Corps of Engineers, and State of Montana lands. The policies and plans of these agencies can have either positive or negative effects on our economy and our future.
Last week I attended the “Coordination” training held at the Malta library. “Coordination” refers to the requirement that Federal agencies coordinate with local governments in developing and implementing plans and management activities. The training was primarily attended by County Commissioners and Conservation District board members from Valley, Phillips, Garfield and Fergus counties. At least one other commissioner candidate attended.
Local governments can have a major influence on these agencies, as we learned at the training. The BLM’s basic law, the Federal Land Management and Policy Act requires BLM to make “all practical effort to resolve conflicts between federal and local policy and reach consistency.” Subsequent court cases have held other agencies to this requirement, also.
Local governments should develop policies to address potentially contentious issues that may be forthcoming from the Federal side. For example, endangered species, oil and gas development, wild bison, sage grouse habitat, etc.
We learned how to bring the Federal (or State) agency to the table to consider our plans and policies. I know from my 33-year career in BLM that this coordination requirement was downplayed within the agency and basically the minimum effort or sincerity was given. This training was very encouraging. It provided tools to increase local control of management of Federal lands. And it does work. Back in about 2008, former Commissioner David Pippen used this tool very successfully to stop CMR’s plan to take over water rights of a large area around the refuge.
On a related issue, I thought Ron Stoneberg’s opinion article in last week’s Courier on the CMR Working Group was spot-on. As CMR has recognized, it is impractical to fence bison into the Refuge and that grazing is beneficial and needed. It’s time to reintroduce cattle.
You know, we are facing a seemingly overwhelming foe in the World Wildlife Fund’s subsidiary, the American Prairie Reserve (APR). APR is a parasitic organization that survives by making billionaires and regular folks feel better about themselves by writing big checks to APR. As long as there are guilty and gullible folks with money, APR will suck their blood and continue to gobble up ranches.
What we bring to the fight must include the ability to confront the misleading information coming from APR. For example, if you check out their web site, you will find it full of contradictions. They claim they will co-exist with ranching. But they also plan to allow “Natural Fire Patterns,” “Natural Populations of Predators” and “Regulations of Grazing Mammals by Predators” (that is wolves and grizzlies, folks). That is not going to work for ranching or farming in the neighborhood!
We will need to use all our common sense, tenacity and good science to counter their lying ways. As I learned in the “Coordination” training, local governments have the authority to shine a light on the workings of the agencies that may be working in collusion with the WWF / APR. BLM is not a refuge or a park, yet. Local governments need to pry apart the secret bonds between Federal and State agencies and APR if our region is to survive as a productive part of our Nation.
John Fahlgren is a candidate for Valley County Commissioner.