After speaking with every major gubernatorial candidate in the State of Montana, it is clear that the republicans want to open up the state to more pipelines, more lumber extraction, and more mining. The republicans (and most citizens it seems to me) believe that this is quick way to "create" jobs. One thing that many people don't realize, however, is that positions like the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Secretary of State have nearly as much power as the Governor on these issues.

The reason for this goes all the way back to the beginning of the State of Montana. The Enabling Act of 1889 allowed for Montana to be a state, but it also set aside millions of acres of land that were meant to be sold or developed for "educational purposes."

Today all of this land, 5.2 million acres, is under the control of a five member panel composed of Montana statewide positions including the Governor, the State Attorney General, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the State Auditor. This panel is called the State Land Board and is responsible for the following:

  • Grazing and farming leases.
  • Timber-harvesting.
  • Leases for oil, gas, and mining operations.
  • Easements for such projects as power lines, roads, and private driveways.
  • Fees for recreational use.
  • Cabin-site leases.
  • Land sales and exchanges.

Now to the big reason I wanted to write this post. In an election season, a lot of people look simply at the big contests and ignore less powerful positions like the Secretary of State. But, because of the State Land Board (and many other reasons), even "minor" positions deserve voter consideration. If you want to effect the State Land Board you have two choices. You can barge in and get arrested like these folks did.

Or you can help manage the Land Board with your vote.