Tag Archives: Steve Daines

John B. Sullivan III: Many Montanans rely on wilderness study areas

Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana - photo by Zack Porter
Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana – photo by Zack Porter

A balanced, thoughtful op-ed on wilderness study areas by John B. Sullivan III, board chairman of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers . . .

Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines surprised Montanans by introducing the deceptively named Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act that would put nearly half a million acres of prime public lands in Montana at risk of development and exploitation.

Montana’s Wilderness Study Areas were identified 40 years ago as special, wild places, worthy of careful management. They vary greatly in habitat, ecosystems, and recreational offerings. A blanket policy applied across diverse areas is never good management. We therefore oppose Daines’ one-size-fits-all plan.

Many WSAs are overdue for action, and we’re not opposed to revisiting and finalizing management plans. But forcing a top-down and broad-brush approach to managing lands that haven’t been studied in decades is irresponsible.

Review should start with local, thoughtful and diverse discussions involving various stakeholders. Daines didn’t hold a single public meeting or ask for input from Montanans about these WSAs. His proposal not only ignores local input, which, apparently, is important to Daines only when it suits his needs; it also selects areas attractive to special interest development and resource extraction.

Many Montanans rely on WSAs. With his proposal Daines once again is ignoring those of us who value them to hunt, fish and reconnect with the landscape.

Senator Daines is sabotaging our wild legacy

Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana - photo by Zack Porter
Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana – photo by Zack Porter

From Debo Powers, NFPA President: Conservation organizations around Montana are organizing opposition to Senator Daines’ bill to release Wilderness Study Areas for multiple use. This is an attack on our wild heritage and will be met with fierce opposition. Here is a blog written by John Todd, the Conservation Director for the Montana Wilderness Association . . .

Today, Sen. Daines sabotaged Montana’s wild legacy

He introduced a bill that would strip protection from nearly a half-million acres of our wildest and most pristine public lands. And he did so without holding a single public meeting or a single town hall for Montanans to discuss his bill.

His bill would remove protection from five wilderness study areas (WSAs): West Pioneer (151,000 acres), Blue Joint (32,500 acres), Sapphire (94,000), Middle Fork Judith (81,000), and Big Snowies (91,000).

If this bill were to pass, it would represent the single biggest loss of protected public lands in our state’s history.

Read more . . .

Action needed: Daines’ bill would remove wilderness study protection from 449,500 acres!

Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area - photo by Sally Carlson
Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area – photo by Sally Carlson

With no consultation or other public input, Montana’s Senator Daines has introduced a bill to remove protections from five Wilderness Study Areas in Montana totaling 449,500 acres.

The threatened areas are: West Pioneer (151,000 acres), Blue Joint (32,500 acres), Sapphire (94,000), Middle Fork Judith (81,000), and Big Snowies (91,000).

Please take just a few moments to call Sen. Daines and give him an ear-full at

1-855-297-9453

Press coverage: Bill would remove wilderness protections… (Daily Inter Lake)

Forest Service backs off (for now) on reductions in Montana trail maintenance funding

Trail 2, mile 2, Flathead NF, July 10, 2014 - by W. K. Walker
Trail 2, mile 2, Flathead NF, July 10, 2014 – by W. K. Walker

In the face of some angry senatorial blow-back, the Forest Service has restored full trail maintenance funding in Region 1. For now . . .

The U.S. Forest Service has dropped its proposal to reduce funding for trail maintenance in Montana. The agency originally planned to reduce appropriations for Region One, which includes Montana, by 30 percent over the next three years. This included a potential loss of $1 million to Montana’s federal trail budget this year.

U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester criticized Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last week for failing to prioritize trail maintenance in Montana. The agency proposed revising its formula for funding trail maintenance across the U.S. with an added emphasis on higher population centers. In Region One, there are 28,000 miles of federally managed trails.

The agency on Friday said it would reconsider the formula change and withdrew the proposal.

Read more . . .

Also read: Forest Service backs off planned cuts in trail maintenance in Montana (Missoulian)

Daines, Tester criticize wildfire and trail funding

Chinook Helicopters on Marston Fire, Aug 19, 2015
Chinook Helicopters on Marston Fire, Aug 19, 2015

Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines are not happy about the state of Forest Service funding for fighting wildfires and maintaining trails . . .

As the U.S. Forest Service prepares for the looming wildfire season, Montana’s senators are calling for reforms to the agency’s forest and trail management.

U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines questioned Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last week during a Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing focused on the agency’s $4.8 billion budget request for the next fiscal year.

Tester and Daines criticized Tidwell for failing to prioritize trail maintenance in Montana. The agency has revised its formula for funding trail maintenance across the U.S. with an added emphasis on higher population centers. In Region One, which encompasses all of Montana and has 28,000 miles of federally managed trails, the agency plans to reduce appropriations by 30 percent over the next three years. There is an estimated $25 million in deferred trail maintenance in Region One, according to a Forest Service report.

Read more . . .

The rise of the conservative conservationist

Tristan Scott over at the Flathead Beacon has a long, very interesting article discussing the conservation movement on the right side of the political spectrum. . .

It’s late August in Montana and the North Fork of the Flathead River is running low and slow, snaking through a chalky corridor of wildfire smoke, its steep banks inscribed with the tracks of deer and grizzly bears, wallpapered with a mix of blackened snags and young lodgepole pine, and scored with clusters of radiant fireweed.

The smoke blotting the sky overhead hangs in contrast against the transparency of the water below, magnifying the burnished bottom-stones and the shimmering flashes of bull trout, rainbows and cutties.

Somewhere downstream from the Glacier Rim river access, about 10 miles north of Columbia Falls, a ClackaCraft drift boat cuts through the glassy surface, which longtime fly-fishing guide and oarsman Irv Heitz navigates from his perch in the middle of the boat, rowing and setting his clients up on fish. At the bow, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, dressed in zip-off Columbia cargo pants and a T-shirt, leans against the boat’s leg bracket, casting a dry fly at the tail of a riffle that’s usually filthy with trout.

Read more . . .

Celebrating Glacier National Park’s North Fork – Aug 24

From our friends at the National Parks Conservation Association . . .

Greetings, friends!

We’re planning a summer celebration of Glacier National Park’s North Fork, right on the riverbank the morning of Aug. 24.

Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines together will welcome Canada’s Consulate General Marcy Grossman to commemorate a truly historic transboundary and bipartisan alliance, forever protecting the communities and culture of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Places such as Waterton-Glacier and the North Fork Flathead River Valley do not happen by accident. They are choices that we make together – choices such as the recent Canadian and US legislation that protects our North Fork heritage. Please join us to celebrate the priceless gift of many more summers on the river! We’ll bring the coffee.

Details and directions below…

Celebrating Glacier National Park’s North Fork

Directions to Blankenship Bridge (for non-North Forkers):

  • Enter Columbia Falls on US Hwy 2
  • Turn north on Nucleus Avenue
  • Turn Right at the “T” intersection, onto Railroad Street
  • Continue 8.5 miles up the North Fork Road
  • Turn Right on Blankenship Road
  • Continue 2.4 miles to Blankenship Bridge
  • Cross the bridge; parking is on the left

A response to Senator Daines’ resource development letter

Sen. Daines wrote Montanans on December 19, 2014 asking for feedback on “what Congress should do to increase development of traditional and renewable resources in our state while ensuring we remain good stewards of the environment.”  He also sought feedback on what to do about Montana Wilderness Study Areas. Signed by six prominent conservation groups, the following level-headed response was sent to him last Friday. It’s a lengthy letter, but worth the read. (It is also available for download as a PDF.)

LETTER TO SENATOR DAINES ON ENERGY POLICY AND WSAs

January 23, 2015

The Honorable Steve Daines
US Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Daines:

We the undersigned groups are sending this letter in response to your December 19 letter seeking feedback on “what Congress should do to increase development of traditional and renewable resources in our state while ensuring we remain good stewards of the environment.” While we appreciate your effort to seek Montanans’ input, we were discouraged by the one-sided framing of issues in your letter. Presenting current government policies as outdated, burdensome and placing severe limits on all energy development does not accurately describe the status quo in our view, nor is this extreme characterization likely to bring diverse Montanans together behind the “balanced solutions” your letter seeks.

Indeed, Montanans across the political spectrum value outdoor spaces and public lands that preserve our natural heritage and enhance our recreation economy, while also promoting responsible resource extraction. The debate on energy and public lands in Montana has progressed beyond the either/or choice between fossil fuel extraction or conservation and recreation. A 2014 Conservation in the West poll confirms this shift, a majority of Montana voters believe we need a balanced approach between energy development and conservation on public lands compared to 27% who think public lands energy development should be strictly limited and 20% who think public lands should be generally open to drilling.

Since your letter specifically requested perspectives on possible release of Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs), we wanted to make sure you are also aware of the consistent and broad support in the state for our wildest lands. Montanans are outdoors people who are proud of our protected Wilderness Areas — from the Bob Marshall to the Cabinets, Rattlesnake and Beartooth Plateau. In the June 2014, University of Montana state wide poll, 78% of respondents said permanently protecting some public lands in Montana as Wilderness has been a good thing for the state. While 51% support designating additional lands as Wilderness, that support level jumped to 66% in the poll if those designations are “crafted here in Montana with community input and the support of local groups.”

Continue reading A response to Senator Daines’ resource development letter

Woo-hoo! Senate passes defense bill with North Fork and Rocky Mountain Front additions intact

At 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, the annual National Defense Authorization Act, along with a package of Montana lands bills including the North Fork Watershed Protection Act and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, was passed by the Senate and sent on to President Barack Obama’s desk for signature.

This is very good news for the protection of the North Fork. It is also excellent news for our friends on the Rocky Mountain Front, not to mention carrying with it the first new wilderness additions in Montana in 31 years.

Here’s the lead-in for an early article in the Missoulian. We’ll add links to more coverage (see below) as it occurs . . .

The Senate voted to pass its annual National Defense Authorization Act on Friday , sending Montana’s first wilderness additions in 33 years to President Barack Obama’s desk.

The vote wound up at 3 p.m. after several attempts to add amendments and return it to committee. The final tally was 89-11, with both Montana Democratic senators Jon Tester and John Walsh voting in favor. Walsh held the gavel as Senate chairman at the start of the vote.

The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes $585 billion in Pentagon discretionary spending and $63.7 billion in overseas contingency operations. Those dollars go to things like developing the F-35 fighter jet, maintaining nuclear weapons, operating aircraft carriers and paying military personnel.

It also includes a package of 70 public land management bills; the biggest collection since the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. They create about 250,000 acres of new wilderness designations and protection of other lands from energy development…

Read more . . .

More coverage:

Senate passes North Fork, Rocky Front bill (Hungry Horse News)

Senate Approves Montana Lands Package (Flathead Beacon – good article)

Congress Approves Montana Wilderness (Associated Press)

Tester: U.S. Senate maneuvers kept land bills uncertain until final vote (Missoulian)

Montana lands package roll-up nears finish line

An “historic” lands package including provisions of significant impact on Northwest Montana approaches a critical vote in the Senate . . .

A raft of public lands measures is headed for a vote in the U.S. Senate this week following a last-minute series of negotiations between the state’s congressional leaders, who together marshaled a bundle of Montana bills into the historic package.

The product of 11th-hour arbitrations that nearly collapsed in the waning moments of Dec. 2, the sprawling lands package was rolled into the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass piece of legislation that has lawmakers optimistic it would sail through the Senate with the lands bills intact.

Read more . . .