Party leader says statements on roadless plan are a lie
HELENA - The chairman of the Montana Democratic Party has urged Republican Gov. Judy Martz to recant her claim that the Clinton administration's roadless plan will landlock state-owned land and hamper management of such holdings.
Bob Ream said the governor's contention, expressed in a letter to President Bush earlier this month, was a lie.
"Montanans take pride in straight talk and telling the truth," the Democratic leader said. "It's time for Martz to come clean, fess up and tell Bush that she fibbed when she claimed that state lands would be landlocked by the roadless initiative."
Mary Jo Fox, communications director for Martz, rejected Ream's suggestion and said the governor stands by her letter to Bush.
Fox believes a federal judge, who issued an order blocking the roadless plan from taking effect May 12, agreed with Martz's claim when he found that the roadless proposal "poses serious risks to the national forests and adjoining land by restricting active management activities that have already been planned."
"He has already upheld what we claim," she said.
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Ream's remarks came in response to a confrontation between Martz and state Auditor John Morrison during a state Land Board meeting this week. The board members squared off over Martz's letter, with Morrison calling her statement about landlocked state holdings "materially false."
He said the administration's own study found only 1,320 acres of 5.2 million acres of state land would be totally surrounded by federal holdings designated roadless in the plan. But even then, Morrison said, federal law guarantees the state access so its management would not be affected as Martz claimed.
In her letter, Martz said the state has "grave concerns over its ability to manage state lands landlocked by the roadless initiative."
She told Morrison that her statement was true, regardless of whether the state has one acre or 10,000 acres surrounded by roadless land.
"Martz may try to downplay this fib, say she just stretched the truth," Ream said, "but she told Bush that state-owned lands would be landlocked by the roadless initiative, which just isn't true."
He said the governor cannot be trusted to be part of the local decision-making in regard to national forest management if she provides unreliable information to the president.