With a competitive race to the U.S. Senate coming up in 2020, you would think Steve Daines would be a little concerned about what Montanans think of his record on public lands. It’s no secret that public lands are a major issue for Montanans across the political spectrum, but Daines has voted in lockstep with the Trump Administration’s every move to defund, develop, restrict access, and generally harm public lands and public access.
This includes a slate of shockingly under-qualified appointments to positions in the Department of the Interior, which under Trump’s cabinet picks has started to look more and more like a rubber stamp for industries than a regulatory check on them.
Here’s a quick refresher on just how thoroughly Daines has let us down.
Daines voted for former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s nomination to that post. Many around the country were cautiously optimistic about the job Zinke might do, but here in Montana we knew well enough that he wouldn’t think twice to sell out public lands, and unsurprisingly he made quick work of proposing one of the largest reductions in public lands in history.
When Zinke eventually resigned under the weight of multiple scandals and accusations of misusing taxpayer funds, his deputy David Bernhardt was appointed to fill the position. Bernhardt, a career oil and gas lobbyist, is now Interior Secretary, again, with Daine’s vote of support.
William Perry Pendley, a current deputy director at the Bureau of Land Management, held the position of acting BLM director for a time earlier this year, and despite his lifelong track record of advocating for sale and development of public lands Daines said that he had “not found a reason to be against him”, and that public lands advocates’ concerns were “overblown”.
Daines also failed to stand up to the appointment of Karen Budd-Falen, a right-wing attorney who has made a career of representing anti-public lands interests, to a high-level position at DOI.
These are just a few of the cast of characters now at the Interior Department, pushing a reckless and harmful anti-public lands agenda of cutting funding for programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and opening up more public land for oil and gas development. All without any action from Senator Daines.
Now the latest is Katharine MacGregor, nominee for Deputy Interior Secretary. MacGregor, who has said there is “great uncertainty” in the science on climate change (there’s not), and who has dodged questions on supporting funding for LWCF. While MacGregor’s nomination passed through committee, Daines can—and should—vote against her confirmation when it hits the Senate floor.
MacGregor’s nomination will be up for a vote soon. It would be great to be proven wrong, but based on the track record it seems likely that this will be just one more rubberstamp yes vote for Senator Daines.
Senator Daines wants us to believe that he is a champion for public lands, but his unqualified support for President Trump’s unqualified candidates to oversee them makes it clear he simply cannot be trusted to do what’s best for Montana and its public lands.