Montana Politics

Rehberg Grandstands About National Monument Status Again, This Time with a Confederate Twist

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It’s hard to know what’s worse: that Representative Rehberg is still trying ginning up fear over a non-existent federal land grab or that this time around, he named the bill something that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in the 1860 South Carolina legislature. In either case, his continued efforts to campaign rather than govern offer a stark reminder why Montanans should reject his bid for the Senate in 2012.

Rehberg is continuing his efforts to scare Montana ranchers and farmers that President Obama plans to secretly designate millions of acres a national monument, despite the only plan to do so existing in Rebherg’s mind and campaign strategy playbook:

There are no plans to create any national monuments in Montana, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar confirmed to Senator Jon Tester today. Salazar also confirmed that there are no plans for the government to pursue land purchases along the Missouri River Breaks.Tester questioned Salazar during a Senate hearing, asking about a recently leaked Interior Department memo which listed possible ideas for monument designations.

Nick Rahall, from West Virginia describes the process like a member of Congress, not a radio shock jock, should:

“The Antiquities Act only allows designation of land that is already federally owned,” he said in an emailed statement. “These designations should not be taken lightly and should not move forward without public input, but national monuments should not be demonized or mischaracterized just to score some political points.”

It appears that scoring cheap political points extends to even naming the bill, as Representative Rehberg’s decided to appeal to Derek Skees and the Ku Klux Klan by calling it the Montana Land Sovereignty Act. If there were an award for ham-handed pandering given out to members of Congress, Rehberg would certainly be this year’s winner.

Perhaps the even more amazing part of this sham is that Rehberg’s been campaigning on this issue since at least 2003, when he introduced HR 1629 to protect already protected private land. The public’s response then was typical for Rehberg legislation:

But others call Rehberg’s effort a waste of time, since private property rights are already protected. In fact, Hugo Tureck, a rancher who chaired the local BLM advisory council, says the bill may actually hinder landowners from getting a good deal from the government. “Ranchers should have the right to sell their property to whomever they want,” he says.

A recent editorial in the Great Falls Tribune made the same property-rights argument against the bill, and the Havre Daily News recently accused Rehberg of “pandering to a small group of suspicious people as well as this country’s private-property extremists.”

Pandering to a small group of suspicious extremists? It sounds like Representative Rehberg has at least been consistent about this issue for the past eight years. I’m not sure I’d keep talking about something that’s a)not necessary, b) not in the public interest, and c) not something I have been able to accomplish in eight years.

It’s been bad enough having this sound bite-hungry, show horse represent Montana in the House for a decade. Can we really afford this kind of incompetence in the Senate?

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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