Friday, July 11, 2014

Standing Up For Federal Public Lands Against the Far Right - Pat Connell

Recently, the Montana Republican Party held their convention June 19-21 in Billings, Montana. At the convention, one of the party planks proposed was the transfer of Federal Public Lands to the states. This was reported as being a unanimous vote. Yet after the convention a news article ran  - GOP vote on land turnover wasn’t unanimous which quoted Connell, “Whether or not recognized by the chair or yourself due to lousy acoustics, I, for one, did vote in opposition, and I believe there were a handful of other nays,” Rep. Pat Connell, R-Hamilton, a certified forester, said in an email to the State Bureau. “While I have spent a career encouraging and promoting better management of federal lands, I do not advocate the wholesale transfer of federal lands’ responsibility to the states due to the incredible liability risks to the taxpayers of Montana such action would create.”

Due to the conflicting information, I wanted to find out directly from Rep. Pat Connell of Hamilton, what his stance on transfer of Federal Public Lands to the states is. Rep. Pat Connell is running for Senate District 43. He beat Sen. Scott Boulanger in the Republican Primary. Sen. Boulanger did not win the current seat he holds, it was appointed to him by the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee.

Rep. Pat Connell replied to my inquiry with this statement, "I have argued from local to the halls of Congress for enhanced federal land management - but transfer to the state isn't the way. Demand adequate vegetative management to protect our watersheds: volume, quality and timing of water flow. Montana can expect this as a result of the Water Compact signed by the USFS and Montana ( The only one that the fed has done with any state! ). Easiest way that I can explain it is right now,  is that 330 + million taxpayers have the burden of paying for the cost of ownership and management of these lands. Montana has 1 million folks. Do the math, and the liability risks.
Likewise, the water compact with the tribe: do a risk assessment of them pursuing their claim through the Federal District Court in Missoula upwards through the 9th Court of Appeals, and the likelihood that non tribal Montanans would get a better deal is slim to none in my opinion."

As a retired forester, Connell uses a signature quote from Gifford Pinchot, a forester who served as the first Chief of the United States Forest Service, on his emails, "Conservation is the wise use of resources for the benefit and enjoyment of ALL mankind ..."

I, for one, am grateful that we have a legislator willing to take such a stand for our Federal Public Land ownership. But, Connell is getting backlash from the far right Republicans that have been orchestrating the attacks on our Public Trust (principle that our natural resources - land, water, wildlife, etc., are held in trust for the public and their future generations).

Connell objects to Ravalli County Republican Central Committee request

"A Republican state legislator from the Bitterroot Valley got into a tiff with the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee over the weekend when he refused the group’s requirement to sign the party platform in order to be reimbursed for his registration fee at the state GOP convention.

Rep. Pat Connell, who serves in House District 87 at the southern end of Ravalli County, is running as the Republican candidate for Senate District 43 this November.

He attended the Montana Republican convention in Billings June 19-21. On July 3, he and the other Republican candidates from Ravalli County received an email from Sue Pyron, secretary of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee.

In the email, which was made public on the political blog, Pyron said the central committee had unanimously voted on June 10 to 'fund only candidates who agree to sign and support the Republican Platform.' "

In addition, Sen. Scott Boulanger, who was defeated in the Republican Primary has labeled Connell as a RINO - Republican in name only. This is a faddish attack by far right Republicans to marginalize what some might call traditional or moderate Republicans. I was born and raised in Texas. My family are generational straight party Republicans. I campaigned for Reagan before I was old enough to vote in the 1980 elections, so I fully understand the Republican Party from the inside. But the more I got involved in politics, researching and voting on issues, I came to view myself as an Independent, in the sense that I dont vote party politics, I vote on issues, so I may have a mixture of candidates from different parties on my ballot. So Boulanger's attack on Connell, trying to discredit Connell as not being a true Republican, is low.

I may not agree with Connell on all his positions or his voting record, but there is nothing to indicate that Rep. Pat Connell is not a Republican. In an article in the Ravalli Republic, 2014 elections: Connell to challenge Boulanger for state Senate seat, the legislator effectiveness between Connell and Boulanger is addressed. “Comparing Scott’s record, who was absolutely unsuccessful in passing a single bill that he sponsored, I was successful in seven different bills as sole sponsor,” Connell said in a phone interview with the Ravalli Republic. “Including the wildland fire suppression fund that, first off, reduced waste and year-end shenanigans with any money left over in the different departments, so that money would pay for wildland fire suppression instead of expecting the taxpayers and the state legislature to pick up the tab in the legislature. I sponsored that bill, it passed with bipartisan support overwhelmingly. Scott opposed it. He called it a slush fund at a luncheon meeting. But protecting the taxpayer from having to pick up the tab of wildfire is not a slush fund.”

If you take a look at the Montana Legislative website, doing a search for Sen. Scott Boulanger you will see this page.
This shows that all the bills requested by or sponsored by Boulanger died, as the article above states, except HB 245, which Champ Edmunds sponsored.

As a legislator, representing his constituency and working with other legislators, Pat Connell has a good reputation of doing just that.

So back to the Federal Public Lands transfer issue, if you take a look at Scott Boulanger's Facebook pages, you see that he very much advocates the transfer of OUR Federal Public Lands to the states.

As a US Federal Public Land Owner, as a Montanan rich in federal public lands and as a conservation hunter that advocates for the Public Trust Doctrine, this is a no brainer. All other voting issues are the same state to state. There will always be education, health care, economic, women and children issues, etc., no matter where you live, especially in the concrete jungles of all US major cities. But an issue that most states do not have is the abundance of our wilderness, rights and access of Federal Public Lands, for all US citizens to enjoy and this is right here in our own Montana backyard, so to speak. Boulanger and others want to take that away. 

Boulanger is not content with the Republican Primary results, so he is now embarking on a write in campaign, based on his Facebook page (click image to enlarge), where he states "Real Republicans" are angry. Boulanger wants to steal your Public Trust lands and their resources to privatize them. Pat Connell is a real Republican. A real Republican that sees the value of not only our Federal Public Lands, but the Montana state economic best interests of keeping them in the Federal hands. A Real Republican that stood up for Federal Public Lands against an agenda driven plank in the party platform led by Sen. Jennifer Fielder. Not only do these Federal Public Lands contribute to our outdoor heritage, but they contributed to the $5.8 billion dollars of Tourism and Recreation income that was brought into Montana, that means Montana jobs as well. Nonresident Values of Montana’s Natural Areas report our Federal Public Lands - natural areas, are a major attraction to Montana's tourism and recreating, which includes out of state hunting.

In this election, learn who the candidates are that uphold your Public Trust lands, not special interest agendas that would rob you of your Federal Public Lands. Stand up and Vote for your Public Trust.

Kathryn QannaYahu

Monday, July 7, 2014

Public Trust Doctrine Under Attack

Blind, but now I see
Moving from Texas, my motherland, to Montana, the home of my heart, I went, and still go through culture shock. The biggest culture shock for me was public land ownership.

Montana is rich with Federal and State Public Lands, abundant fish and wildlife, which was a tremendous pleasure, especially coming from drought cycle Texas and a short drought and tumbleweed purgatory sentence in western NE. But this was not the reason for the culture shock. The culture shock was in the land ownership. Having owned or had access to private land in TX, I didnt have to worry about where to fish or to hunt. We primarily fished and hunted on grandpa's farm and ranch lands in south central Texas. I grew up with the belief that the landowners not only owned the land, but all the rights to the land and the water and the wildlife. Those deer, those quail, those pheasants and turkeys - they were mine, or in the case of grandpa's farm and ranch, his, by right as a landowner.

Not once in over 35 years had I ever heard the phrase - "Public Trust Doctrine".

In 2007 I moved to Montana, trying to get here for over a decade. I had never been to Montana before, did not know anyone from this land to rave about it. I liken it to the old pioneer bug that bit many people, instinctively driving to an unknown land. Montana is my home, so much so that since 2001 when I left Texas, I had not been back there, until this last October when my father passed away.

Upon arriving in Montana, my first culture shock came with fishing access. My husband pulled over to the side of the road, we grabbed our rods and he began to walk down the bank to the stream. I objected, telling him he was trespassing, that he could not just walk on other peoples property to go fish. He explained Montana was not like that, there was stream access. I was not convinced. Deep seeded private land rights, like cult brainwashing, were not so easily swept aside. I expected a landowner or game warden to confront us with trespassing the whole time.

Driving up to the mountains south of Bozeman and hiking was the next shock. No toll booth requiring a paid permit to enter; no private landowner permission required for the vast tracks of gorgeous public land. Again and again I was confronted with the openness and freedom of Montana - the abundance of public lands and stream access. I still have difficulty wrapping my head around these concepts at times.

In April 2012 I joined a local conservation hunter organization in Bozeman. It was like an immersion into another world. Agency acronyms were flying around needing a pocket reference guide to know who was who. More public land was brought to light - Fish, Wildlife & Parks Wilderness Management Areas (FWP's WMAs). Was there no end to Montana's abundance? Wildlife was public, the fish were public, water was public.

But with all this abundance, I also learned of the threats that jeopardized it - special interests, politics, privatization, commercialization and Texas billionaires. I already knew what the land looked like in that landscape - Texas, where about 1.9% is public land. I also heard mentioned -  the Public Trust Doctrine and with it the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation - the polar opposite to what I grew up with - the European Model of land ownership, or as some call it - the Texas Model. I began to research and immerse myself in the details of the Public Trust Doctrine. 

Like the slave trading captain John Henry Newton who converted to Anglican Christianity, later writing Amazing Grace - "Was blind, but now I see," I too saw the light. For the same reason I never went back to Texas, I don't want to see Montana turned into a Texas. So I began to zealously fight for the Public Trust in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Area states.

Public Trust Doctrine
The Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) is viewed as foundational, a cornerstone of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. The 1842 U.S. Supreme Court case, which resulted in the Public Trust Doctrine began with, "Chief Justice Roger Taney, determining that the lands under navigable waters were held as a public trust, based the decision on his interpretation of the Magna Carta (A.D. 1215). The Magna Carta, in turn, drew upon the Justinian Code—Roman law as old as western civilization itself: 'By the law of nature these things are common to all mankind — the air, running water, the sea, and consequently the shore of the sea. No one, therefore, is forbidden to approach the seashore, provided that he respects habitations, monuments, and the buildings, which are not, like the sea, subject only to the law of nations.' " (The Future of Public Trust, John Organ and Shane Mahoney).

The Public Trust Doctrine was further expanded in 1896, when the Supreme Court included wildlife into the Public Trust (Geer v. Connecticut). Then in the 1970's a Harvard legal scholar, Joseph Sax, included Natural Resources into the Public Trust.

Seven years ago Organ and Mahoney wrote, "Today, however, what came to be known as the Public Trust Doctrine, and with it the North American model of wildlife conservation, are under siege. Increasing privatization of wildlife (where landowners restrict access to wildlife for personal profit), a boom in the establishment of game farms raising wildlife for sale, the animal rights movement, and other trends are continually eroding the underpinnings of the Public Trust Doctrine. These developments threaten the legal mechanisms that allow for the protection and conservation of wildlife as a public resource. To protect the Public Trust Doctrine, conservation practitioners must consciously revisit its foundations so they can better understand its benefits, as well as the risks that citizens face if wildlife is not robustly protected by public ownership and government trust."

As President Theodore Roosevelt adamantly stated, "Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance." Roosevelt helped to give birth to conservation.

“Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying that “the game belongs to the people.” So it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The “greatest good for the greatest number” applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction.
Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us to restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wildlife and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.”

On the National Front
The Public Trust Federal Lands, of which you and I are all landowners, are under attack by neo carpetbaggers under the guise that "returning" these Federal Lands to the States will bring about better land management from the local level. Bovine Blossoms! This is a lie from the very foundation of the selling point. These lands NEVER BELONGED TO THE STATES, therefore there is nothing to "take back" or "return". Not to mention that Additionally, these public land thieves are not accurately representing economically what it would entail for our State governments to take over management of these Federal Public Lands. The result would be an enormous bloated state government which state taxpayers would somehow have to pay for. A major fire alone would bankrupt the State. And finally, there is the lack of public access, which on a State level is nothing like the abundance of public access we enjoy as Federal Land Owners.

Besides the current Federal Land grab movement to transfer Federal Ownership of land to the States, there is an insidious Bill which is related to this movement. While the Federal Government would retain title to the lands, the State governments would have the administrative authority for them, while leaving the Fed with the ownership bills. This bill is H.R. 1526, deceptively named The Restoring Healthy Forests For Healthy Communities Act . This bill has passed the House and is on its way to the Senate. 
The Montana Front 
Here in Montana, the "siege" against our Public Trust Doctrine is being intensified by special interests that seek to profit by the privatization of our Federally and State held public lands, as well as our wildlife and resources. Some of these land thieves are using our legislature to drive their agenda, using our Environmental Quality Council Interim meetings SJ15 Work Group, chaired by Sen. Jennifer Fielder. Our taxpayer dollars are being used to achieve these special interest objectives - privatization of our Federal Public Lands and resources.

The Deceiver From Within
I can the see greed of certain people, special interest groups. I don't necessarily agree with the mentality of people that would steal our heritage, our Public Trust to privately profit, personally privatize and generally piss on Public ownership. But the worse threat, in my opinion, are the public servants, who are charged with the stewardship of our Public Trust, who would seek to undermine the Public Trust Doctrine from within - the Trustees and Trust Mangers: our legislators, executors, commissioners and employees of our natural resource agencies. Public servants we should be able to trust with the management of our wildlife and public lands/waters. Servants who whisper that the Public Trust is obsolete (if you say it often enough it will become the truth?); servants who speak of throwing their lot in with private landowners - privatization. Back room deals are done, neo conservationists are brought in to supposedly represent the conservation public into making deals on the conservation Public's behalf - deals which benefit corporations and privatization. Servants who use the Public in working groups, like shields, to hide and mask their privatization agendas, instead of doing the scientifically and legally mandated environmental reviews, statewide management plans that are part of the Public Trust Doctrine and North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. 

In my opinion, of all the threats to our Public Trust, the greatest and most insidious is that from within,  those who receive a paycheck of our dollars to manage our Public Trust; instead, they serve the special interests that would seek to rob us of our greatest treasure. 

Theodore Roosevelt stated, "Our government, National and State, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests. Exactly as the special interests of cotton and slavery threatened our political integrity before the Civil War, so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests our of politics." 

It's not just "politics" we need to free from the "sinister influence or control of special interests", we must drive these special interests out of our natural resource agency, out of our Fish, Wildlife & Parks if we are to restore our Public Trust Doctrine - protecting our resources now and for future generations. 

Kathryn QannaYahu