June 23, 2001
Contact: Lucas Hamilton
Land Board members say Martz and Brown distorted timber sale vote
Three State Land Board members criticized Secretary of State Bob Brown and Gov. Judy Martz Saturday for distorting Land Board proceedings Friday that authorized substantial timber sales in northwest Montana.
The timber sales had been stopped by an order from a state district court in Helena. The Land Board Friday considered a "temporary rule" that was designed to allow the timber harvests to proceed this summer. Over objection from environmental groups, the board passed the rule by a 3-2 vote, allowing the harvests to proceed. Martz and Brown voted against the motion, which makes the rule effective on Friday, June 29.
Environmental groups asked the Land Board to reject the rule, which would have prevented the harvests from proceeding this summer.
"I moved to adopt this rule and allow these harvests to proceed because it was the right thing to do under the circumstances," Morrison said.
The June 29 effective date was to allow a brief time for the district court to consider whether the unusual temporary rulemaking was legal, Morrison said.
"We want to make sure we're on solid ground," Morrison said, noting that the temporary rule procedure previously has not been used this way.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda McCulloch also supported the rule.
"The administration's own target date for this rule was July 5, and the board voted to make it effective June 29," McCulloch said. "The bottom line is this rule, so long as it is lawful, will allow these sales to proceed to the benefit of the school trust." McCulloch said.
Martz and Brown voted against adoption of the rule, stating opposition to the effective date of June 29.
Friday, Brown charged in a press release that the one-week delay in the effective date was to allow environmentalists "to try to stop the rule from ever being implemented."
"That is pure political propaganda and is simply not true," Morrison said. "The board's decision allows these harvests to proceed, consistent with our sworn duty to uphold the law."
Attorney General Mike McGrath, who voted in favor of the motion to adopt the rule, also objected to Brown's characterization of the vote.
"This is ironic because it was the Democrats who voted in favor of the timber sale and the Republicans who voted against it," McGrath said.
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