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2020 Senate Race Environment Montana Politics Steve Daines

Why Are Some Montana Conservation Groups Giving Steve Daines Cover on the LWCF?

As noted orator George W. Bush once observed, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me, you can’t get fooled again.” It’s hard not to think of Bush’s quote when every time Senator Steve Daines promises—again—to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, certain conservation groups in Montana thank him for his efforts, even though they never seem to amount to much.

I just don’t understand why they’d give Daines any credit for more empty words about protecting Montana lands.

Daines has a great scam going. He promises to fully fund the LWCF and then goes back on his word. He sends press release after press release and tweet after tweet claiming he is working and meeting with other Senators to get full funding and then turns around to request only 2/3 of full funding. He claims to support the public lands the LWCF protects and then turns around to vote an Interior Secretary who is so hostile to the program that he’s all but promised to end it.

He gets favorable coverage in the media, authors op-eds indicating his support, and highlights the LWCF on his official website but somehow can’t ever seem to get the job done.

Yesterday the Senator tweeted again that he was working to fully fund the LWCF:

Today I continued my fight to #SaveLWCF and joined my colleagues in urging Leadership to fully fund the program.

More empty words.

His party controlled the Senate, House, and Presidency from January 2017-January 2019. If he was so committed to full funding of the program, why didn’t he secure it then? Given Daines’s penchant for claiming that he’s an effective bipartisan leader in the Senate, how was he not able to convince his colleagues to support a popular, practical program that Montana desperately needs?

The answer is simple: Daines doesn’t want full, permanent funding for the LWCF. He’d much rather be able to campaign on empty promises to lead the fight, even though he’s been an obstructionist who has refused to make the funding anything more than rhetorical priority. It’s simple, actually: either Daines is an historically inept and ineffective member of the Senate or he’s lying when he claims the LWCF is a priority for his office.

And that’s what makes the public support for Daines’s empty words from certain conservation groups and leaders so confusing. Giving Daines credit and thanks for more empty rhetoric gives him cover for a record that is hostile to public lands, environmental protection, and even the LWCF itself. While I understand that conservation leaders must work with Daines, they need to do a better job of holding him accountable for his failures and betrayal of the principles that matter to them.

Some of these same groups also inexplicably lent their support to Ryan Zinke’s nomination to become Secretary of the Interior, despite copious evidence that he was an anti-public lands zealot who would turn over even sacred land for oil and gas development. And that’s just what he did.

I commend these conservation groups for their optimism in believing that Daines and Zinke would put Montana’s public lands heritage first, but I have to question their willingness to ignore plain fact when they lend their political capital to candidates inimical to that heritage.

It’s time for the conservation groups thanking Senator Daines to stop, and time for them to demand action.

Fool us repeatedly, Senator Daines, and shame on you. And shame on those who should know better for believing him.

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.

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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  • Which conservation groups are you referring to? I would like to know since I donate to some of them and would like to voice my disappointment to them.

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