With Senator Daines hosting fellow members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources National Parks Subcommittee at the Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site in Deer Lodge, Montana to discuss expanding visitation at lesser-known national parks tomorrow, Western Values Project – a Montana-based public lands watchdog nonprofit – seeks answers from Senator Daines on six pressing questions:
- Will Senator Daines address and meet with Montanans during recess about his plans to get full and permanent funding for the LWCF passed in the Senate? Senator Daines left for congressional recess without passing full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund – America’s most important conservation tool. The fund was used to purchase the Grant-Kohrs Ranch in 1970 for $250,000, where Daines will be hosting the field hearing.
- Will Senator Daines stand up to the Trump administration’s efforts to gut public land protections and demand full and permanent funding for the LWCF? Daines voted to confirm the conflict-ridden Interior Secretary David Bernhardt — a former mega-lobbyist and a proponent of gutting the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Daines is also a strong Trump supporter, despite the administration’s historic reductions of public lands protections for special interests. President Trump’s budget for 2020 nearly zeroed out funding for the LWCF. In 2019, Trump’s budget slashed the program by 98 percent, and in 2018, by 84 percent.
- Will Senator Daines encourage senate leadership to support and pass legislation he co-sponsored to fully and permanently fund the LWCF to help meet the needs of the national park maintenance backlog? The LWCF has invested more than $619.7 million in protecting Montana’s parks, public access, and recreation areas, including providing funding for lesser-known national parks alongside popular national parks like Yellowstone and Glacier. Daines has spoken about the need to address the national park maintenance backlog, yet has failed to pass funding for the LWCF – which would help address the national park maintenance backlog.
- Will Senator Daines stand up for Montana’s public lands by calling for the immediate removal of William Pendley as the acting director of the BLM? Interior Secretary Bernhardt recently hired and delegated the authority and duties of the director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to William Pendley without congressional approval. The BLM Director position requires Senate confirmation, but the Trump administration has yet to nominate a director after two and a half years. Pendley – a lawyer and the former president of Mountain States Legal Foundation who has sued Interior numerous times on behalf of oil, gas and coal interests – is a staunch advocate for the transfer and sell-off of federal public lands. Pendley even sued the federal government over oil and gas leases in Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine area. Senator Jon Tester called Pendley’s leadership position ‘a threat to the future of federal public lands in Montana and elsewhere because of his support for selling federal lands.’
- Will Senator Daines call on the BLM to address this giveaway to extractive industries that will negatively impact hunting and outdoor recreation opportunities in central Montana? The BLM recently proposed a draft Resource Management Plan for some 650,000 acres of public land in the Lewistown district. The newly released plan’s ‘preferred alternative’ dropped 26,000 acres of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and 100,000 acres of Wilderness Study Areas previously protected from development. The Billings Gazette called the plan ‘out of balance,’ stating that ‘two percent for wildlife and water and 98 percent open for development isn’t balanced.’
- What will Senator Daines do to address the lack of accountability and culture of corruption that has run amok under conflicted former mega-lobbyist Interior Secretary Bernhardt’s leadership? Just four days after Senator Daines voted to confirm David Bernhardt as the next Secretary of the Interior, Bernhardt became the subject of a multi-faceted ethics investigation. Six other Trump appointees at the Interior Department are also under investigation for ethics violations. One independent source counts more than a dozen scandals related to Bernhardt’s conduct at Interior. This may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ethical lapses and misconduct by political appointees at Interior. As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, neither Senator Daines nor his colleagues have called for a hearing or an investigation into the conduct of Trump’s political appointees at Interior.