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Ravalli County Rep Plans Land Use Workshop Featuring Controversial Property Rights Attorney

Rep. Theresa Manzella (R) - HD85
Freddy Monares
UM Legislative News Service
Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton, listens to debate in the Montana House of Representatives.

A Ravalli County state representative says she will bring a controversial property rights attorney to present a land use policy workshop whether or not local elected officials chose to participate.

"Absolutely. I’m moving forward," says Theresa Manzella.

Manzella wanted to commission Karen Budd-Falen to make a four-hour land use presentation to the Ravalli County Commission.

Budd-Falen is reportedly on President Trump’s short-list to lead the Bureau of Land Management; an agency with which she has repeatedly clashed. She has also represented the family of Cliven Bundy whose refusal to pay grazing fees sparked an armed standoff three years ago.

Manzella, a Republican, says commissioners were initially receptive to participate in the workshop, but have since cooled to the idea after hearing from local critics. They say Budd-Falen supports transferring public lands into private ownership.

"That is not the topic of discussion here – has not even been discussed between Karen and I," Manzella says.

Ravalli County Commissioners could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Representative Manzella says she’s consulted with open meetings law experts and is pressing ahead with her plans to bring Budd-Falen to Hamilton.

"The idea was never for them to hold the meeting, but for me to hold and host and sponsor the meeting; in which case we can provide for public comment or not. That is my decision and my discretion to make."

Manzella says she and other private Ravalli County resident are chipping in to pay Karen Budd-Falen’s $500 workshop fee.

Specifics aren’t pinned down yet, but she mentions November 17 or 18 as the most likely dates.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.
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