Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Daines is wolf in sheep’s clothing regarding Montana’s public lands

by Sally Ericsson and Chris Saeger
| April 20, 2022 1:00 AM

I think we both just about spit out our coffee when we each read a recent (April 6, 2022) guest column claiming Senator Steve Daines is “leading the charge to protect our natural resources.” A group called the Montana Citizens’ Climate Lobby drafted the piece. While their intentions may be well and good, they’re definitely misinformed about Senator Daines’ natural resources record in Montana.

To set the record straight, consider the following:

  • Recent polling shows nearly 80% of Montanans support the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, a homegrown, collaborative conservation public lands bill. Despite serving as a gatekeeper on the committee that holds the key to moving the bill forward, Senator Daines has actively blocked this Montana-based bill from gaining any traction. Senator Tester listened to Montanans and sponsored the bill. Senator Daines is sabotaging it. Hardly a natural resources hero for our state.
  • In 2015, freshly elected by Montanans to serve them in the U.S. Senate, Senator Daines voted in SUPPORT of an amendment that would have removed protections on 600,000 acres of Montana’s public lands.
  • Despite thorough documentation of local support for Wilderness Study Areas (WSA) in Montana, Senator Daines continues to lead the charge toward stripping nearly 500,000 acres of public lands from WSAs, without gathering public input from Montanans on his made-in-DC idea. By the way, recent polling shows 89% of Montanans support keeping these protections in place…but who cares about what Montanans think anyway?
  • Back in 2019, he supported the nomination of William Perry Pendley to take the helm of the Bureau of Land Management. Pendley spent years as an attorney leading the national charge to sell off public lands. Yet in 2021, Senator Daines voted against the nomination of a fellow Montanan to the same post, Tracy Stone-Manning, despite her long professional track record of relevant bipartisan work in the public lands and conservation arena. He stands with those who want to sell off public lands and turns his back on those who work on solutions to conserve our outdoor heritage.

Sadly, we could go on and on about Senator Daines’ abysmal record on public lands but this fine newspaper has a word count limit. Bottom line: Senator Daines consistently supports legislation and people geared toward selling off our public lands to the highest bidder. Even as a businessman, you would think Senator Daines would be moved by the fact that Montana boasts of a $7.1 billion recreation economy that supports more than 71,000 jobs. Instead, many Montanans, including business owners and those who rely on the state’s growing and thriving outdoor recreation industry, feel duped by Senator Daines for his lack of support, including (but not limited to) holding the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act hostage.

While Montana Citizens’ Climate Lobby is well-intentioned, we’d caution anyone against taking Senator Daines’ lip service on Montana’s natural resources, climate and our outdoor way of life to heart. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And his record speaks louder than his talking points.

Sally Ericsson and Chris Saeger of Whitefish serve on the Montana Conservation Voters’ Board of Directors as Vice-Chair and Director, respectively.