Congressman Gianforte is proposing two bills in Congress that amount to the largest reversal of public lands protection in Montana’s history. From the Upper Missouri River Breaks to the most remote corner of the Bitterroot Mountains, Gianforte seeks to open the door for mineral, oil, and gas exploration in 28 wild and remote places where many Montana families now hike, hunt, float, fish, and camp.
Our lone Congressman is not only assaulting public lands, he’s also assaulting public process and our way of life. Taken as a whole, Gianforte’s public lands bills are a net gain for industry, the likes of which have not been seen since the time of the Copper Kings. And just like the Copper Kings, Gianforte is pushing these efforts without hosting a single public hearing in the impacted local communities.
Perhaps we should expect this from an East Coast businessman who spends his unlimited wealth buying a seat in Congress while spending his limited time here in the West in boardrooms and private jets—both places where’s he grown accustomed to getting his way. But these aren’t his lands, they don’t belong to a corporation or a billionaire, they belong to us.
If Congressman Gianforte wants to change the status of our public lands, then he must let us, as the owners and stewards of the land, have a say. The plan for each site should stand on its own merit and therefore be presented in its own bill. And he should trust us to participate. That means holding advertised public hearings in the impacted communities and showing up in person to hear from us.
Montanans understand that we need to balance mineral and energy development, tourism, and our outdoor heritage for future generations. The balance is different in each place. A one-size-fits-all solution takes away both our rights and responsibilities as public land owners. In my work on public and private land conservation in western Montana, I found that the best and most lasting solutions for land management always came by engaging communities from the beginning of the process. I’m running for Congress because I think that collaborative approach is sorely lacking from what we see in Washington D.C.
It is fitting that our Congressman refers to the targets of his bills as being in “limbo”. His actions are those of a person who seeks to lower the bar of public service over and over again. Truly representing Montana means representing every Montanan’s interests, not just the wealthy or industry. It means working with Montanans to review all 28 sites, ensuring that we get the greatest possible benefit from them and ensuring that we that we pass benefits along to our children and grandchildren. It’s time to for all of us to demand that our lone representative in the US House start raising the bar again.
If you’re like me, and are tired of our Congressman attacking our public lands without any feedback from the public, then I encourage you to vote for me in June. I’m running for this seat so I can take on Gianforte and show him what Montanans expect and deserve from our elected officials.