Sunday, March 18, 2018

Justin Post

Is Steve Daines out of touch with Montana?

There are a few takeaways from Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte’s Thursday introduction of the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act into the U.S. House of Representatives.
First, it’s apparent that a majority of our congressional delegation is on board in the effort to protect one of the most pleasant places on the planet. Gianforte’s bill corresponds with the Senate version introduced last year by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.
If you ask them, both Tester and Gianforte will tell you that Montanans have strong opinions about this issue. The bills withdraw mineral rights and forbid mining operations of public lands near Emigrant and Jardine, on the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park.
Tester and Gianforte might also tell you that their constituents appreciate it when Montanans voice their concerns about an issue and the folks they elect to Congress listen and respond accordingly. Unfortunately, it seems Republican Sen. Steve Daines isn’t hearing our voices, even though we’re shouting from mountaintops.
Daines instead recently told a reporter from this newspaper that perhaps the Paradise Valley mineral withdrawal effort could be used as a bargaining chip in his efforts to withdraw nearly 450,000 acres of public land in the Treasure State from Wilderness Study Area (WSA) designation.
Sen. Tester rightly responded that those who sought the mining removal in Paradise Valley made no mention of WSA removal.
“It’s a bad swap,” Tester said during a Wednesday press conference call with Montana reporters.
It’s unfortunate that Sen. Daines would consider leveraging the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act in an effort to win support for his unpopular WSA proposal.
It seems as though he’s catering to the “balanced use” crowd and trying to win favor with motorized users, but – since we’re on the topic – few conservation-minded folks support removing protections for these Wilderness Study Areas, which are among the best, secure elk and mule deer habitats in the state. Mixing the WSA debate in with the ongoing discussion about the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act is little more than crass politics.
Residents from all over Montana and the nation have weighed in. They’ve said it’s time to move the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act through Congress and onto the president’s desk for a signature.
The bills from Tester and Gianforte have bipartisan support and reflect the wishes of Montanans.
Daines is not engaging Montanans and it shows he is out of touch with our wishes.
If Daines genuinely cares about protecting the Yellowstone area, he would join with Tester and support his bill in the Senate – as a bipartisan Montana bill. Yet Daines seems determined to deny Tester any legislative wins, even if they would benefit Montanans.
Let’s hope Daines realizes that Yellowstone and Paradise Valley are more valuable than political gains.