This is a continuation of the “sagebrush rebellion” in the form of local government plans that purport to exert local control over federal land management. They are being peddled to rural counties by Karen Budd-Falen, an attorney with a history of promoting private property rights (who some expect to be the new director of the BLM). Since she certainly knows what she is talking about, she must also know that there is no legal basis for some of the expectations she is generating. It’s just another way of stirring up local sentiment against federal land management.
Earlier this month, Crook County leaders passed a plan designed to give county residents more say in how local public lands are managed by the federal government. However, discussions over how the plan will be implemented and what it will mean for the county’s oft-contentious relationship with its local public land managers are just getting started.
In addition to articulating county priorities for how federal land should be managed with regard to mining, agriculture and recreation, the plan states that the county expects state and federal agencies to meet with county officials on an ongoing basis.
Still, Michael Blumm, professor of law at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, said federal agencies don’t have any obligation to follow the county priorities set out in the plan, which range from mandating no reduction to grazing allotments on federal land, to ensuring that roads providing access to public lands stay open year-round. “It’s a political move,” he said. “It’s not legally enforceable.”
A controversial land-use attorney drew more than 100 protesters and as many supporters to Hamilton Middle School Saturday, but the topic of her talk with county residents was interpreted differently by people attending the event.
Budd-Falen’s talk centered around having a more detailed county land-use plan that would be used to strengthen its own management desires carried out by federal agencies, including the Forest Service. She said that federal policymakers in Washington, D.C., were out of touch, and local governments could help guide more micro-level policies.
While Budd-Falen never spoke about public land transfer, state Sen. Jennifer Fielder, R-Thompson Falls, gave a presentation about her efforts to support federal land transfer to states.
Actually Ravalli County has already has a “natural resource use plan” it developed in 2012, and Commissioners changed their minds about asking Budd-Fallon to speak about adding “teeth” to it (she was invited instead by a local state representative). Maybe their experience with that plan has helped them understand that its greatest value is probably in helping them articulate their interests rather than as something to beat up the Forest Service with.