WHEREAS The Montana Conservation Districts are mandated by statute (75-15-102 MCA) to protect the soils, water, citizens, and economic base of Montana; and
WHEREAS, Montana is a large state containing approximately 94,105,600 Million acres of land. The primary economic drivers are farming, ranching, and multiple use of Federally owned lands. Many of these farms and ranches depend on grazing permits on Federal lands to be viable. We assert that cooperative management of these lands by farmers and ranchers and the federal agencies at a local level is more beneficial to the environment than “Preservation,” and
WHEREAS, the federal government owns approximately 27 million acres of the land within the state and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service (USFS), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and Corps of Engineers (COE) are responsible for managing these federal lands. In addition, lands held by the USA in Trust to the Tribes total about 8.2 million acres. The State of Montana owns an approximate 5.2 million acres managed by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (MT FWP). The private lands comprise approximately 60, 754,560 acres; and
WHEREAS, layering additional protections on these lands will not assure “Preservation.” Current management practices employed by private landowners and the government agencies are maintaining a natural state, when required. Reduction or elimination of agricultural use on these lands could leave them highly susceptible to wildland wildfires, and weed infestation; all of which degrade the natural biodiversity and human environment; and
WHEREAS, many of Montana’s businesses and its citizens are involved in or otherwise depend on industries that utilize federal, state, and private lands and their resources, including livestock grazing, oil and gas exploration and production, mining and mineral development, recreational industries, hunting, and other outdoor recreation; and
WHEREAS, there is no constitutional or statutory authority for the President, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, or any other federal agency to set aside and permanently preserve 30 percent of all land and water in the United States, and no such authority is referenced in Executive Order 14008; and
WHEREAS, the withdrawal of some 680 million acres of federal lands from multiple use and placement of such lands in permanent conservation status will cause dramatic and irreversible harm to the economies of many western states, including Montana, and in particular rural counties whose citizens depend on access to federal lands for their livelihoods; and
WHEREAS, the 30 x 30 program, if implemented, will conflict with the plans, policies, and programs within several counties in Montana as expressed in many County Growth Policies which obligates the federal government to coordinate its policy development with local County as also required by the Federal Land Management and Policy Act (FLPMA); and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Montana Association of Conservation Districts as follows:
- The Board opposes the 30 x 30 program, including its objective of permanently preserving 30 percent of the Nation’s lands in its natural state by 2030, or any similar program that will set aside and prevent the productive use of millions of acres of our lands.
- The Board supports the unfettered private ownership of land at the county level, recognizing the Nation’s need for food and fiber, minerals, and energy and opposes expansion of conservation easements intended to meet the goals of the 30×30 program. Conservation easements would freeze management and development of the land, impacting productivity of the land and future tax revenue to the county. Additional Conservation Reserve set-asides intended to meet the goals of the 30×30 plan will also reduce the economic output from our agricultural sector, harming local businesses and tax revenue to the county.
- The Board maintains that the designation of Federal lands as Wilderness, Wilderness Study Areas, wildlife preserves, open space, or other conservation land to fulfill the 30 x 30 program’s objectives may lawfully occur, if at all, only through the planning process mandated by the Federal Land Management and Policy Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, including public notice and an opportunity to comment, analysis and disclosure of the impacts of such land acquisitions on the well-being, health, safety, welfare, economy, and culture of local residents, its businesses, and careful coordination with local county to ensure consistency with county land use plans and land management policies.
- The Board also maintains that any non-federal lands or other rights that are acquired to fulfill the 30 x 30 program’s objectives should be acquired only from willing landowners and for the payment full and fair market value for all rights and interests acquired, and not through regulatory compulsion, and only after analyzing and considering the impacts of such land acquisitions on the well-being, health, safety, welfare, economy, and culture of the county, its businesses, and its citizen.