Federal Foolishness - An update from Senator Fielder

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“We were ordered to make life as difficult for people as we can” a National Park Service employee told the media.

The debacle began when the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives funded all the government functions except Obamacare. In turn, the Democrat controlled U.S. Senate refused to vote on any government funding unless Obamacare was part of the package. The President announced he would not negotiate and all non-essential employees would be sent home.

Many would argue that remote public lands and treasured places in Montana have been needlessly caught up in Washington DC politics for decades. The recent shutdown magnifies the problems with a far-away centralized government that classifies some of our nation’s most productive timber lands, grazing areas, mineral and energy deposits, hunting and fishing grounds, and spectacular scenic and historic places as “non-essential”. If these areas are non-essential to the federal government, why don’t they give them back to the states?

For many of us in the west, the lands controlled by the federal government are the life blood of our economy, our heritage, our way of life, and our happiness. It is frustrating to be subjected to a Washington DC bureaucracy that is so out of touch with what is important to the people who live here.

Perhaps this shutdown is the wake-up call we need to help folks realize the fewer things the federal government has control over, the fewer things they can mess up. Out state does very well generating revenues, fighting fires, and maintaining a healthy environment on the hundreds of thousands of acres we manage. We aren’t sued every time we cut timber, and we aren’t $17 trillion in debt. On the contrary, we balance our budget every year.

It is amazing what the President decided to shut down and what he decided to leave open. While a children’s cancer treatment center was closed, federal golf courses remained in full swing. Scores of our nation’s most popular public places were barricaded -- despite the fact it cost more to close some of these places than it would have cost to leave them open.

Shoulders of public highways near scenic sights like Mt. Rushmore and the Grand Tetons are barricaded so motorists can’t pull off the road in customary places to enjoy the “federal” scenery.

Millions of acres of federal lands have been closed unnecessarily – including vast rugged landscapes that do not require daily supervision or maintenance. Law abiding hunters and anglers were evicted, primitive boat ramps were closed, approved logging operations were halted, and tourists in Yellowstone National Park were held under armed guard with orders to “stop recreating”! Park Rangers even went as far as congregating their police trucks around Old Faithful right before each eruption so guests who had already paid an entry fee could not see this natural wonder during the so-called shutdown.

In prior impasses, no President (democrat or republican) has gone to such extremes to obstruct law abiding citizens from enjoying open air public places. As a growing list of federal foolishness hits the airwaves daily, the number of citizens who are taking matters into their own hands is increasing proportionately too.

Sunday, thousands of veterans re-opened the war memorials in Washington DC. They removed barricades, paid tribute to their fallen, then marched the barricades over to the entry of the White House in peaceful protest. After a handful of tourists removed barricades in front of the Lincoln Memorial, hundreds of folks flooded up the grand steps, cheering in unison as the first group reached the top.

The unnecessary closure of treasured places has destroyed thousands of vacations and triggered widespread civil disobedience. Sadly it has also crushed the livelihoods of small towns, businesses, and families who rely on tourism, natural resources, and outdoor recreation associated with these federally controlled places.

Western states have been hit hardest because the feds control over 50% of the total land mass in the west. But instead of giving in, leaders in Utah, Arizona, North Dakota, and Wisconsin heroically stepped up and found ways to reverse the federal land closures in their states. They proved where there’s a will, there’s a way… and I will keep working at it here in Montana.

If you would like to help me achieve fair and functional government, please email me at sen.jfielder@legmt.gov.

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