Recently introduced legislation (House Bill 441) to eliminate the conservation license option for Montana School Trust Land is misguided and wrong for Montana.

The conservation license law was enacted 20 years ago at the request of the timber industry. It provides citizens and organizations an opportunity to bid to retain the conservation values of School Trust Land. Administered by the DNRC, School Trust Lands are by statute tasked with earning revenue for Montana schools.

Including the conservation license option in a timber sale increases competition, resulting in more revenues for school beneficiaries. This is a free market approach. Those who most desire the timber can bid the highest bid. Eliminating the license is subsidizing special interest above a free market approach.

Some fear the conservation license will drive logging from Montana. Facts show this simply isn’t true. In 20 years of existence, conservation licenses were pursued only twice, most recently for the proposed Limestone West timber sale south of Bozeman.

Given the near pristine wildlife habitat of Limestone West, there are far better areas to log. Conservation licenses allow citizens to enter into a competitive bid against logging companies to preserve special places. In this process, Montana schools will benefit while preserving critical wildlife habitat.

The elimination of the conservation license is wrong for Montana, wrong for citizens seeking to participate, and might ultimately work to the detriment of our schools.

William Webb