Sanders County residents attend public lands rally

SANDERS COUNTY residents stand on the steps of the Montana capitol building with their signs as they prepare to attend the Public Lands Rally in Helena. (Photo provided)

A busload of supporters from Sanders County (the home county of land transfer proponent State Sen. Jennifer Fielder) joined over 1,000 other Montanans at the Public Lands Rally in Helena Jan. 30. Brandishing signs emblazoned with “Sanders County”, including one that read “Shame on Senator Fielder”, forty people made the long journey from the sparsely populated county near the Idaho border and joined with several others from Sanders County in the Capital’s rotunda. The bus started picking up passengers from Bull River Junction, about ten miles from Idaho, at 6 a.m. Riders represented many small towns, from Heron to Hot Springs.

People were eager to join this effort to demonstrate the tremendous importance of public lands in our county, and our determination to prevent their sale or transfer. Nearly a hundred and fifty more who were unable to make the trip have signed a resolution for the legislative record, opposing the sale or transfer of public lands. Making sure that federal public lands stay in federal management is something that we can all gather around to support. It is a non-partisan issue, and our bus came from both sides of the political isle. A couple of my favorite take-aways came from Governor Bullock, who said that “Montana’s public lands need no access permission because they’re already public.” According to him, those lands support a $6 billion gain for Montanans. And those people “sure as hell” aren’t coming for our Walmarts!

Beyond that, I think I can speak for the 50 of us (that I know of) that showed up all the way from Sanders on a Monday noon for this rally. Forty of those came on a bus that started at six in the morning and didn’t return until eight that night. We came from a long ways and some of us took off work to be there. Every person on that bus got a chance to stand up and speak out to all of us to explain their passion for taking the trip, and we were all energized from those words. It’s clear that we held a wide spectrum of beliefs and political persuasions; we represented Montanans born and those that moved to this state for the beauty and accessibility of public lands. All of those people joined in support of keeping those public lands public. Montana cannot support the land management, the fire protection, or the protection of the flora and fauna within the mountaintops and watershed. Those eloquent people gathered on that bus, those raucous people gathered in the rotunda, along with the nearly 150 names I’ve collected so far on a resolution to send to a variety of public servants express that we want to see NO SALES, NO TRANSFER, NO CONVEYANCE OF PUBLIC LANDS. Senator Fielder is operating to benefit and represent her out-of-state interests as CEO of the Public Lands Council out of Utah. She is not representing her constituency’s best interests, nor the best interests of the state of Montana, nor the best interests and use for federal public lands for all United States citizens. — Mindy Ferrell, Trout Creek

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