The Montana Farm Bureau is applauding Governor Gianforte for signing HB 554 which states that before the federal government can establish a national heritage area, the Montana Legislature must approve it. This bill gives farmers and ranchers a layer of assurance that there will be local input on designations that might impact their ability to use certain practices.

When Chouteau County Farm Bureau learned about the push for the Big Sky Country National Heritage Area (BSCNHA) covering 2 million acres in Cascade and part of Chouteau counties, they raised the alarm.  They introduced policy at the 2020 Montana Farm Bureau Delegates Session for local control on property rights issues, then Rep. Josh Kassmier (R) HD 27, introduced HB 554, and on Friday, May 14, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law.

Chouteau County President Jess Bandel, who testified on the bill, said, “We want to thank Representative Kassmier and the other legislators who supported HB 554, and Governor Gianforte for signing it. Passage of this bill returns decisions on private property rights to the people and the state, as opposed to giving the power to the federal government. That’s how our country was founded; power with the people. With state control, the people’s choice can be heard. This bill should at least put pressure on federal agencies making these decisions to contact the state and have a conversation about creating heritage areas.”

Bandel cautioned that although HB 554 will help protect property rights by having more local approval, it’s still essential to oppose the privately-managed BSCNHA by contacting the National Park Service as well as the Montana Congressional delegation.

“The proposed BSCNHA would infringe on private property rights, have a self-appointed board and misuse taxpayer funds,” said Bandel.

Find out more about opposing the BSCNHA by clicking here.