Montana Politics

Dennis Rehberg Co-Sponsors Bill Endorsing Massive Federal Land Grab, Threatening Hunting and Fishing Access

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Want to understand Dennis Rehberg? You don’t need to look any further than his decision to co-sponsor radical legislation undermining Montana law enforcement and environmental protection at the same time he’s running around the state claiming to preserve Montana sovereignty.

John Adams has the story in Monday’s Great Falls Tribune—and it demonstrates Rehberg’s total disconnect from Montana values. As written, the law would allow the Department of Homeland Security “total operational control” of all federal lands within 100 miles of the US border, control not even subject to court review.

How bad is this law? Ask John Leshy, law professor at Hastings University, who says it will give DHS employees unilateral power to do whatever they want to vast areas of federal land:

The mischief this extreme concentration of authority in the DHS would create beggars the imagination. H.R. 1505 would effectively arm 200,000 DHS employees and their contractors with unilateral power to do what they want, without any advance notice, check, or process, over vast areas of federal land. It would put a cloud over every action every federal land manager might think proper to carry out his or her responsibilities under federal law to protect the lands and fish and wildlife and other resources.

And the repercussions would certainly affect Montanans:

It would give DHS unilateral, unconstrained and unreviewable power to exclude all Americans from, and restrict all kinds of activities on, federal land anywhere in the country – livestock grazing, timber harvesting, mining, hunting, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, camping, skiing, rafting, and so forth. All DHS would need to do is assert that such an exclusion would facilitate prevention or deterrence of illegal entry in the United States – and no one could review or question its assertion.

A former Bush administration official says that the law will not only reduce national security, but threaten Glacier National Park and hunting access for Montanans:

Lynn Scarlett, a former deputy Interior secretary under President George W. Bush, has reviewed the bill, H.R. 1505, and says she supports improving border security but thinks giving a single federal agency the authority to ignore laws and other federal, state and local agencies is a dangerous move.

Scarlett cites possible damage to iconic places such as Glacier National Park and limits on hunting, fishing, recreation and grazing rights on border public lands and waters.

The law’s entirely unnecessary—an assault on environmental protections using the cover of national security to undermine public health and the environment. The Salt Lake Tribune makes the point quite clearly:

By treating all borders and coastal areas the same, and drawing a 100-mile buffer zone in areas where 100 miles is a long way, HR1505 would give Homeland Security carte blanche to ignore environmental rules in the entire state of Florida, all of New England, the Great Lakes, the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest, the already damaged Gulf Coast and the forests and prairies all along the Canadian border.

Rehberg’s fond of saying that Washington doesn’t have the answers for issues Montana faces, but it’s hard to reconcile that rhetoric with his endorsement of this bill, which will dramatically reduce the ability of both the private and public sector to manage lands here in Montana.

It’s the wrong bill—for national security,for the environment, and most of all, for Montana.

Of course, It’s important to put Rehberg’s position in context. Despite his claim to support the rights of Montanans, he was an early supporter of REAL ID and the Patriot Act—both examples of incredible federal overreach.

No matter how often he claims to protect the “sovereignty” of Montana, voters should remember that, when it comes to the most critical issues—our right to travel freely, our right to be free from government intrusion, and our right to manage our lands—he’s consistently been on the wrong side of the issue.

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.

10 Comments

  • This is a very scary proposal. Every citizen in this country, not just in our little place in the West, should be screaming about this.

  • So, according to Congressman Rehberg, when the Iron Curtain was up in Europe it was bad.
    But, to see one’s rise in the United States is ok??

    Anybody else seeing a logic FAIL here??

    I think it’s time to put Commie Congressman Rehberg out of a job.

  • It is obvious that Congressman Rehberg should not have the power he has been unmistakeably gifted. It seems he is hiding behind national monument bills to so-called protect the rights of Montanans. He would never even make a pimple on Teddy Roosevelt’s glutious maximus or minor. He has all the land or access to land that he could ever want. This kind of bill makes him a disgrace to all Montanans and should make them vote him to the Rear-berg!

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