Tag Archives: Steve Daines

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.)


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 Presenting current government policies as outdated, burdensome and placing severe limits on all energy development does not accurately describe the status quo in our view, nor is this extreme characterization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 . . .

Conservationists wonder what’s next for Montana lands

This is the conclusion of a two-part series by Rob Chaney of the Missoulian on the roll-up of Montana land-use legislation inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act last week . . .

While everyone wonders if the U.S. Senate will pass a huge package of public lands legislation this week, many Montanans are already looking beyond the fate of the two wildland protection bills in the mix.

“The positive thing is a logjam is going to break loose,” said Scott Bosse of American Rivers in Bozeman. “That helps future conservation bills. I think members of our delegation were reluctant to take on other big projects as long as the logjam existed.”

Wilderness advocate Steward Brandborg felt quite the opposite…

Read more . . .

Montana wilderness bill a product of last-minute horse-trading

This is part one of a two-part series by Rob Chaney of the Missoulian on the roll-up of Montana land-use legislation inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act last week . . .

Years of legislative wrangling squeezed down to hours of last-minute negotiating to get a bundle of Montana land bills into the National Defense Authorization Act last week.

“We were not sure what was going to be in the package until 11 p.m. Tuesday night,” Rep. Steve Daines, R-Montana, said Friday. “There’s a lot of pieces in that package. It was late in the game before we could see what was going on.”

For Montana Democratic senators Jon Tester and John Walsh, the legislative work started in October. But the final horse-trading took place just days before all three members of the congressional delegation stood together to announce their achievement on Wednesday.

Read more . . .

House passes defense bill that includes Rocky Mountain Front, North Fork provisions

The defense bill passed the U.S. House this afternoon, including the provisions for the various Montana conservation and lands legislation packages. Next week, the bill is debated in the Senate, a much higher hurdle . . .

The U.S. House on Thursday passed a defense spending bill containing a broad public lands package for Montana, including new wilderness on the Rocky Mountain Front, a ban on mining near Glacier National Park and changes supporting oil exploration and grazing on federal land.

The Republican-controlled House voted 300-119 for the $585 billion defense policy bill, which funds U.S. troops, military operations, ships, planes and war equipment. Montana’s only House member, U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, a Republican, voted for it.

The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration, where a vote is expected next week.

Read more . . .

‘Historic’ Montana lands conservation bill roll-up merged into defense bill

Montana’s congressional delegation is taking another swing at getting several long-delayed lands use bills passed. This time around, they’ve rolled up the whole collection, including the North Fork Watershed Protection Act and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, and merged it with the pending defense spending bill, a “must pass” piece of legislation.

Here’s the lead-in from the Hungry Horse News, along with links to additional local coverage . . .

Montana’s Congressional delegation announced Dec. 3 they have come together on an agreement for a major land-use bill that rolls several pieces of key conservation legislation into a defense spending bill that could pass Congress in the coming days.

In a conference call Wednesday morning, Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh and Rep. Steve Daines said the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, the Northern Cheyenne Lands Act and several other lands-use bills would be merged into the legislation.

“Today is an historic day for Montana,” Tester announced.

Read more . . .

Further reading:

‘Historic’ Montana Lands Package to Advance – Flathead Beacon

Front, North Fork, other Montana lands bills set to advance – Missoulian

Poised for Protection – Montana Wilderness Association

Will lame duck Congress pass any Montana lands bills?

Will any of the languishing Montana lands bills get passed by year’s end? . . .

In the lame-duck weeks of December 2010, Sen. Jon Tester tried to get his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act attached to any must-pass legislation likely to make it out of Congress before the end of the year.

The effort failed.

But this December has a much larger slate of Montana-related lands bills looking for a vote, and a Democratic Senate caucus about to lose its majority status in January. That’s got a lot of congressional watchers wondering what last-minute legislation might wind up under President Barack Obama’s Christmas tree.

Read more . . .

Missoulian pushes for post-election action on North Fork Watershed Protection Act

In a post-election editorial, the Missoulian advocates action on the North Fork Watershed Protection Act . . .

…The act is aimed at placing permanent protections on the side of the Flathead watershed that falls within the United States. The Canadians have already granted such protections on their side of the border, honoring a longstanding agreement between our two countries. Unfortunately, and frustratingly, the U.S. has not held up its end of the bargain by prohibiting new oil, gas and mining activity in the North Fork.

The legislation has widespread, bipartisan support. But in today’s politically divided Congress, even the most worthy bills can be held up by partisan gridlock.

Hopefully, all three of Montana’s congressional delegates make it their first order of business to work together to get the North Fork Watershed Protection Act approved by Congress at last…

Read more . . .

North Fork Watershed Protection Act gets mired in election-year politics

It seems the North Fork Watershed Protection Act is bogged down in election-year digestive by-product. Tristan Scott over at the Flathead Beacon just posted an excellent discussion of the situation . . .

When the state’s congressional leaders introduced the North Fork Watershed Protection Act last year, the measure to ban new energy development on 430,000 acres of wild and scenic river corridor near Glacier National Park stood out for its singular brand of bipartisan support.

The Montana-made bill gained near universal esteem, even at the height of partisanship, and was hailed by conservationists, oil tycoons and politicians alike as a commonsense piece of legislation – 80 percent of energy leases in the area have been voluntarily released, and it dovetails with an effort by British Columbia’s parliament to place similar protections north of the border, on the headwaters of the Flathead River.

Representing the first public lands bill in recent memory to garner the full support of Montana’s entire congressional delegation, it also provided a convenient platform for the state’s electorate to display the kind of esprit de corps that Washington lacks, a welcome departure from the gridlock that has stalled Congress, and a rare display of bipartisan teamwork greeted by much local fanfare…

But just as the North Fork bill appeared poised to transcend the morass, it fell victim to the same political arrest that has come to typify Congress – a fanatical brand of doctrinarian politics from which the measure and its backers attempted to distance themselves…

Read more . . .