Representative Daines Golfs While Western Montana Burns

Last night, as I was flying home into Helena, I had the opportunity to witness a really great moment on the flight. The Delta flight crew announced at the start of the trip that we were sharing our flight with a group of firefighters headed to Montana. As the passengers burst into spontaneous applause, the flight crew seated as many of the firefighters in first class as they could. Small gestures both, but acknowledgement of the important work these men and women do to keep us all safe.

What those flight attendants (and the passengers) knew seems to be something that Representative Steve Daines doesn’t understand: wildfires represent a critical threat to property, natural resources, and most importantly, human lives.

As the Lolo Creek Complex fire grew to 8,000 acres, destroying at least four homes and threatening even more, Representative Daines spent his day golfing and fundraising with John Boehner in the Flathead. Neither the Congressman nor his staff were present to provide information or assistance to the public.

The Montana wildfires are apparently such a low priority for Representative Daines that they’re not even mentioned on his Congressional web site, which lists self-promoting events instead.

Of course, Governor Bullock and Senator Tester are at the fire, touring the damage and offering all the assistance their offices can muster.

Raising money from well-heeled donors at a campaign event might seem terribly important to Representative Daines, but one of the critical roles members of Congress play in a state like Montana is simple, visible leadership in times of crisis. There’s no excuse for Daines failing to do the same, especially when he’s in the midst of a month-long paid vacation from Congress.

31 counties are in a state of emergency in Montana right now, but Congressman Daines apparently sees his campaign coffers as the most pressing issue facing the state.

In his brief tenure in Congress, Daines has shown he has little interest in helping disaster victims, voting against aid for those who suffered the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Now he’s turning his back on his fellow Montanans?

A new, sad low for a perpetual candidate more interested in himself than the people he should represent.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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  • Raising money for well-heeled donors at a campaign event might seem terribly important to Representative Daines, but one of the critical roles members of Congress play in a state like Montana.

    Are there some words missing in the above?

    Why would Daines “raise money for well-heeled donors”? Wouldn’t he be raising money from well-heeled donors?

  • Lolo Creek Complex: Majority of acres burned owned by Plum Creek Timber Co
    By Matthew Koehler

    On Wednesday, the Lolo Creek Complex fire was named the nation’s Number 1 firefighting priority. Over the past few days the fire has made a number of good runs due to winds approaching 50 miles per hour and humidities in the teens. This has all been reported in the media.

    What hasn’t been reported in the media at all is the fact that the majority of the acres burned to date as part of the Lolo Creek Complex fire have burned on lands owned and managed by Plum Creek Timber Company. Much of that Plum Creek Timber Company land has been heavily logged, roaded and infested with noxious weeds.

    According to the official Inciweb report on the Lolo Creek Complex fire, to date the fire has burned 1,455 acres of the Lolo National Forest and 7,143 acres of private land. For what it’s worth, much of the Lolo National Forest land burned in this fire to date could also be characterized as heavily logged, roaded and infested with noxious weeds.

    What Inciweb doesn’t tell us, or show, is that the vast majority of that private land burned to date in the fire is owned and managed by Plum Creek Timber Company.

    To verify this fact I used the most current fire perimeter maps on Inciweb and then consulted with a tool called the Montana Cadastral, that I’ll sometimes use during hunting season to confirm land ownership. The Montana Cadastral is a Montana Base Map Service Center, which is a part of the Montana State Library. It provides the most up-to-date information concerning land ownership throughout Montana.

    As anyone can clearly see using these tools, section after section of land owned and managed (mis-managed?) by Plum Creek Timber Company has burned as part of the Lolo Creek Complex fire. Currently, over 500 firefighters (and numerous helicopters, bull-dozers, tanker trucks, etc) are battling the fire. What the total cost of this fire to US Taxpayers will be is anyone’s guess. The total cost of all this fire suppression activity that will be paid for by Plum Creek Timber Company is likely a little easier to figure out.

    Why the Montana media hasn’t utter one single word about the fact that the majority of land burning in this fire is owned and managed by Plum Creek Timber Company is a real mystery.

    P.S. It’s also worth pointing out that another large chunk of the private land burned to date in the Lolo Creek Complex Fire is owned by Illinois-based Potomac Corporation. It’s tough to find info about them on-line, but they appear to be in the cardboard manufacturing business. Calls to their listed 847-259-0546 number have gone unanswered all day.

    • “Why the Montana media hasn’t uttered one single word about the fact that the majority of land burning in this fire is owned and managed by Plum Creek Timber Company is a real mystery.”

      Tongue-in-cheek, I assume. It’s not a mystery to anyone who pays attention to media ownership structure. They don’t report on power. They protect it.

      I fail to see the importance of politicians doing flyovers and photo-ops. They just get in the way.

      “Raising money from well-heeled donors…”

      Tongue-in-cheek, I assume, as any world-wise political observer knows that all politicians of all stripes do their best work for their well-heeled doors … but keep the meetings private and off-record.

    • What people need to know: modern firefighting has become an industry. Forests are just gonna burn, given the long-term drought and decades of thoughtless fire suppression. Dry, overgrown trees will burn and it doesn’t matter whether firefighters are there or not. Rain, not firefighting, will end the Lolo fire.

      What could we be getting for all those billions? New streets, bridges, water mains, airport runways – every sort of infrastructure. Even the Forest Service would benefit from turning its activities away from fire and back to other goals.

      As a jobs program, it’s fine- but we might as well get a return on the investment of taxpayer money.

      • It’s not just ‘drought and decades of thoughtless fire suppression.’ It’s also lack of any type of forest management.

        • RE: Anonymous’ comment: ” lack of any type of forest management.”

          I’m not sure if anonymous is talking about private, state or federal lands.

          Seems to me that most everyone in Montana believes that private lands (including corporate timber lands owned by corporates such as Plum Creek Timber) are being logged/roaded at a pretty good clip.

          Also seems as if the timber industry and the “more-loggin'” politicians always point to Montana’s state forests as being logged to their liking. Of course, the state legislature has helped increase the cut from our public state forests through various logging mandates over the past few legislative sessions.

          In regards to the Forest Service timber sales program, which takes place on federal public lands owned equally by all Americans, sure it may be en vogue to claim a “lack of any type of forest management” but the actual facts tell a much different story (See below). For starters, the amount of logging and road-building (National Forests in Montana contain over 32,000 miles of logging roads) on Montana’s national forests from the period of the 1950s to the mid-1990 was completely and wholly unsustainable. This was true not only ecologically, but also economically.

          The tremendous amount of mis-management that took place on national forests during that period is certainly still impacting the management of our national forests to this day. Cumulative impacts still accumulate. Wildlife habitat (especially for our most sensitive and threatened species) continues to degrade. Too many watersheds have been, and continue to be, degraded as a result of all this logging and road-building.

          Here’s a link ( to the Forest Service’s Timber Sale Program Cut and Sold Reports for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 in the U.S. Forest Service Region One, which 12 National Forests located Montana and northern Idaho.

          Please note that over the past five years the Forest Service in Region One (ie all of Montana and northern Idaho) has sold enough public lands timber to the timber industry to fill 239,000 log trucks, which if lined up end-to-end, would stretch 2,048 miles, or nearly from Missoula, Montana to New York City.

          According to the Forest Service’s Cut and Sold report, here are the numbers over the past five years for the Forest Service’s Region One:

          • FY 2012 Region One sold 208.3 MMBF, cut 219.4 MMBF

          • FY 2011 Region One sold 211.9 MMBF, cut 202.0 MMBF.

          • FY 2010 Region One sold 253.4 MMBF, cut 188.7 MMBF.

          • FY 2009 Region One sold 292.9 MMBF, cut 186.0 MMBF.

          • FY 2008 Region One sold 229.2 MMBF, cut 167.4 MMBF.

          NOTE: MMBF = million board feet. There are approximately 5,000 board feet per logging truck.

          How anyone can someone claim that these factual numbers represent a ” “lack of any type of forest management” is a real mystery.

  • Daines fiddles (golfs) while Montana burns. He’s definitely from the ruling class. He’s a natural born leader………..from the Roman era!

      • 1. You should investigate the meaning of the word hypocrisy. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

        2. Even if President Obama were the worst President in American history, it wouldn’t excuse the inaction from Representative Daines. One person’s bad acts don’t change the moral evaluation of another person’s acts.

        3. I understand your frustration, as there is no defense for your candidate. He chose a fundraiser over doing his job. I wouldn’t want to defend someone in that position, either.

  • And so it begins.

    Why don’t you blame Daines for starting the fire?

    After all Bush and Cheney summoned the hurricane that slammed into Louisiana.

      • Yeah, right, clutter up the firebase and make “caring” statements and get a photo in a shiny yellow shirt? When he’d be more effective supporting getting the laws changed so the problem of too many trees and too many lawsuits is dealt with by Congress? Psht.
        Stick to English, Pogie.

        • You’ve outdone yourself this time, Dave. It’s hard to imagine Daines getting too many laws passed at his fundraiser while Congress is out of session for a month.

          Stick to reciting Fox News talking points as if they are insight.

          • Pogie’s right on this one Dave.

            Nothing sticks to a MT Republican like forest fires and fighters.

            Bumper stickers being made as we type.

            Acknowledge the Fires! Rep. Daines.

            • While Montana Flames, It’s Golfin’ Daines!

              You see, Ingy, it’s what you ReePubes do best! Daines is simply following the dick, cheney model! When the terrorists attacked, the dick said to go shopping! When the flames attack, dipshit daines says go golfing! You see, we can’t allow them fires to win! We’ll show’em! By golfing!

              And dipshit daines is kinda like sarah palin. He’s an expert on fire, for he can see it from his golf course!


              Just a little ReePube humor for ya at dipshit’s expense. He’s great grist for the humor mill, as are all you Pubes!

        • I look forward to your analysis of Daines showing up today at the firebase.

          Given your position in this comment, it would seem we should look forward to your comment about him cluttering up efforts and not working on what you see as “effective” laws.

          I do so look forward to your comment.

          • Well, now you don’t have anything to whine about, do you? He cares! He’s engaged!
            In the meantime, I need to go wash a clipper and get it ready for inspection.

  • Given how hot to raise money Daines is, he may think his burning ambition is a sufficient recognition (and demonstration) of wildfire. No word yet whether he was on fire on the golf course, but perhaps he was: we’re now getting smoke in the Flathead.

  • I sort of have to agree with Dave RE: “Yeah, right, clutter up the firebase and make “caring” statements and get a photo in a shiny yellow shirt?”

    Although looks like Daines didn’t get handed a yellow shirt:

    I also very much have to disagree with Dave RE: “getting the laws changed so the problem of too many trees and too many lawsuits is dealt with by Congress?”

    Here’s some more information and specifics about Daines’ so called “Restoring Healthy Forests and Healthy Communities Act:

    Finally, in the context of all the debates and discussions that have taken place about the need to “do something” regarding forest restoration or dealing with “fuels” or protecting homes and communities from wildfire I offer up this new post, “Lolo Creek Complex: Rewind the clock, what would you have done?”

    Keep in mind that 83% of the land that’s burned as part of the Lolo Creek Complex fire has been private land, almost all of which is owned and managed by Plum Creek Timber Company.

    • See my Beacon column next week.
      Lots for you to hate in that bill, Matt — but the fact remains, the system is too screwed up to function without some serious legislative changes.
      The claw-backs on the Secure Schools money is just another insult on top of the USFS needed mo money to stand around and look at fires.
      The fuels need to be managed, at a profit, period. If “climate change” is the truth, then the rational response would be to adjust the wood on the ground to fit the new reality — artificially in a way that benefits the society owning the forests rather than “naturally” when the conditions are, um, mankind’s fault?

  • Maybe it is just me, but I do not see the significance of 7000 acres of the fire being owned privately. A fire is a fire and if left uncontained, more homes, more land and more resources will be lost. A fire does a lot more than just burn down trees. It can (and does) damage wildlife habitats, it destroys watersheds and can and does kill people. 29 firefighters have been lost this season alone. How many more will be lost until we wake the hell up and figure out that we are NOT managing our forests well and that we have to change our direction?

    • Maybe it’s just me Moorcat, but when you do not see the significance of the Lolo Creek Complex fire burning mainly on private land owned, [mis]-managed (and logged, roaded, etc) by Plum Creek Timber Company….

      But then go on to complain, “we are NOT managing our forests well and that we have to change our direction?”

      ….I get very confused. Are you saying that Plum Creek Timber Company is, or is not, managing their forests well? Remember, Plum Creek Timber does bill itself as “Leaders in Environmental Forestry,” a slogan I’ve always found rather comical and ridiculous, based on my experience and observations of Plum Creek Timber Company lands.

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