Montana leads the way on forest projects
Oftentimes the best stewards of the land are those directly affected by the outcomes of its management.
“Our Cohesive Strategy for wildland fire management is part of being good neighbors. Rather than pointing fingers, it creates opportunities for joint stewardship of the landscapes we all share.” – Vicki Christiansen, former Forest Service Chief
27 million – that’s the number of acres owned by the state’s largest land manager, making up 29% of all land in Montana. The magnitude of that much land means decisions they make, or don’t make, can lead to devastating wildfires and the destruction of vital watersheds. On the other end of the spectrum, their actions can lead to the revitalization of our forests.
This land manager is the United States federal government, which up until 2014 was largely the only entity authorized to manage the expansive forests they own. That all changed with the introduction of the forest management tool known as the Good Neighbor Authority.
In this month’s featured article, PERC Policy Director Hannah Downey explains how Montana has been using the Good Neighbor Authority to partner with the federal government to facilitate forest management projects.
In 2016 Montana entered into a 10-year Good Neighbor Authority agreement with the Forest Service, “today, nearly 5,500 acres of forestland across all seven national forests within our state boundaries have been treated with selective thinning, prescribed burns and other management tools.”
Oftentimes the best stewards of the land are those directly affected by the outcomes of its management. Allowing for more joint forest management efforts between Montana and the federal government means better outcomes for the health of our forests, while also addressing the forest management backlog that fuels catastrophic forest fires.
“Montana has proven its ability to conduct forest projects on federal lands. Now comes the opportunity to expand and get even more work done to promote forest health, reduce fire risk and support the timber industry,” writes Hannah.
Be sure to check her entire article, where she explains all of Montana’s opportunities associated with the Good Neighbor Authority.
Addressing Facial Recognition Inaccuracies
Not all facial recognition systems are the same, but a common rule of thumb is that not a single system is perfect. Studies by the National Institute of Standards and Technology have found that a number of factors contribute to facial recognition identification accuracy, including sex, age, and race.
Facial recognition has revolutionized unemployment fraud prevention in Montana, demonstrating the technology’s benefits. But while it has its benefits, the technology certainly has its downsides, especially when governments use it without uniform and transparent protections for citizens. Without rules regarding its use by the government, Montana could see individuals getting misidentified, much like what other states have begun to see.
Montana Needs Upzoning Reform
According to the Census Bureau Montana’s population has grown by 10%from 2010 to 2020, while the number of new housing units has grown by only 7%. It is illegal to build anything but a single family home on 75% of residential land in the United States. This means if only one lot is available but 3 homes are needed to house a growing population, only one home can be built due to local regulations that mandate only a single family home can be built on that lot.
As Montana’s population grows, many towns have adopted goals to stop sprawl of the city, allowing Montana to maintain its rural and wild places, but this limits the housing supply in the face of a growing need for more housing. Upzoning achieves both by preventing the city sprawl while also allowing for more housing. Strict zoning laws make affordable housing illegal, and reforming local regulations to allow for upzoning will allow for additional affordable housing without the sprawl.
The State of Privacy in Montana
Last week Frontier Institute CEO and President Kendall Cotton appeared on the CATO Daily Podcast, where he discussed how law enforcement often utilizes cutting edge technology to do their jobs better. However, it poses a serious privacy risk to Montanans if there are no rules regarding the use of new technology by law enforcement.
“Culturally Montanans are already very keen about privacy and for them it was a no brainer. Let’s put some side boards on this before it gets out of hand.” You can listen to the entire podcast here.