Conversely, wildlife proponents argued that the act has prevented extinction for thousands of species. Several groups not allowed to testify at Wednesday’s invitation-only hearings in Wyoming and Montana balked at being excluded and at the hearings’ official title, “A New War on the West.”
The North American Sage Grouse Partnership called the meeting title “evidence of an approach to breed conflict.” The Montana-based Western Values Project pointed out that federal oil and gas leases by the Bureau of Land Management on 3 million Montana acres have been underdeveloped by oil and gas contract holders, who have put 25 percent of the leased land to use.
“Montanans should be disappointed in today’s hearing and in Congressman Daines,” said Ross Lane, Western Values Project director. “Instead of working to solve problems related to public lands and energy development, Montanans were instead treated to a scripted give-and-take with friendly witnesses. Meanwhile, issues important to Montana’s sportsmen, landowners, industry and small businesses go unresolved.”
Daines said after the meeting that he did not select the invited witnesses for the Montana hearing. Committee Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said Democrats and Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee had an opportunity to submit names of possible witnesses. Democrats didn’t submit witness names for the Billings hearing and opted not to attend, he said.
The witnesses, all from Montana, included Dave Galt, Montana Petroleum Association executive director; Matt Knox of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation; Channis Whiteman, Crow Tribe member and Cloud Peak Energy equipment operator; Carbon County rancher Bill Cebull; and Kerry White of the conservative group Citizens for Balanced Use.