New leader steps up for the American Lands Council

Montana lawmaker takes over lands transfer group, as a new tendril of the movement emerges.

 

The organization leading the charge for Western states to take over federal lands has a new leader. Montana State Sen. Jennifer Fielder is stepping up as CEO of the American Lands Council, while founding president and Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory is moving on to become director of the “Free The Lands” Project with Federalism In Action. The latter is a nonprofit policy group that supports states’ rights and public-lands transfers to states or local communities. The shift comes as the ALC and the public-lands transfer agenda have faced growth and criticism, and as militant fellow travelers gain notoriety for the movement.

Ivory cofounded the ALC in 2012 to push for the transfer or seizure of national forests and rangelands to states or local governments. Since then, Ivory has rallied Sagebrush Rebels and anti-government supporters and shepherded a West-wide public-lands crusade that has gained traction from county commission offices to state legislatures. Fielder, already a frequent speaker on behalf of the ALC, moves into her position with her own connections to right-wing extremists.

A businesswoman who specialized in outdoor recreation planning and community projects, Fielder was elected as a state senator in 2012, representing Thompson Falls and surrounding counties in Northwestern Montana. She quickly emerged as a leading voice for the ALC and the public-lands takeover movement in Montana. In 2013, she successfully introduced a resolution authorizing a legislative working group, which she then chaired, to carry out a survey of federal land management in the state. Critics said the group’s 2014 final report had “a hidden agenda” promoting transferring federal lands to the state. A 2015 bill she backed to create a public-lands transfer task force made it through the state legislature, despite opposition from conservation and sportsmen’s groups, but was vetoed by Governor Steve Bullock, D.

“It won’t be a whole lot different than what I’ve been doing, educating people and trying to keep moving in a positive direction,” Fielder told the Helena Independent Record, of her new position. “I believe (federal lands transfer) is the right thing for Montana and that’s the whole reason I support local decision making. But I realize that to help Montana you have to get other states to see the plight.”

Montana State Sen. Jennifer Fielder, the new CEO of the American Lands Council.
Thom Bridge/Independent Record

Fielder is vice chair of the Montana Republican Party and has served as a board member of the Sanders Natural Resources Council, a county natural resources advisory committee that has backed county “coordination” and local authority over federal lands. John Trochmann, founder of the anti-government Militia of Montana, which has ties to white-supremacist groups, started the council in 2006, according to a 2012 Montana Human Rights Network report. Fielder also has connections with the Oath Keepers, a constitutionalist militia group.

The transition comes after the ALC — and Fielder — have weathered ethics complaints in several states, suggesting the group was illegally lobbying, in the past year. In Montana, an aide for Fielder resigned after it was disclosed he was also working as a lobbyist for the ALC, a potential violation of state legislative rules. This January, a report revealed that Ivory made $135,000 as president of the ALC in 2014, accounting for half of the group’s revenue, which comes through memberships to counties, businesses and individuals. Fielder said her CEO position is “voluntary and unpaid.”

During the recent standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, Fielder penned an op-ed, supporting the protesting militants’ cause and the Oregon ranchers whose prison sentences set off the occupation, while bashing federal land management and promoting the ALC. “But rather than take up arms in what could become a deadly outcome,” she wrote, “there is a better way to increase the local people’s voice in how our public lands are managed. Over 1,000 elected officials already support transferring federally controlled public lands to willing state or local governments, as do several presidential candidates. Support is growing as more and more people learn the facts about this issue.”

“Good luck to Sen. Fielder with her working for any organization she wants to,” Montana Wildlife Federation Executive Director Dave Chadwick also told the Helena Independent Record, “but I certainly don’t think it reflects any growing Montana support for the cost of transferring federal lands.”

Joshua Zaffos is an HCN correspondent based in Fort Collins, Colorado. Follow him @jzaffos.

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors EMPLOYMENT TYPE: Part-time - Full-time, based...
  • HEALTHY CITIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Healthy Cities Program Director leads and manages the Healthy Cities Program for the Arizona Chapter and is responsible for developing and implementing innovative, high...
  • CONSERVATION PROGRAM MANAGER
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Conservation Programs Manager Job Opening Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Associate Director Job Posting Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through science,...
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is seeking an Executive Director who will lead RiGHT toward a future of continued high conservation impact, organizational...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz
  • CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER
    with Rural Community Assistance Corporation. Apply here: https://www.marcumllp.com/executive-search/chief-operations-officer-rcac
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...