If Daines truly supports public lands he’ll vote against Bernhardt

Print Article

Most Montanans caught the news that Congress passed the most significant public lands package in years: Permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Yellowstone Protection Act.

Senator Steve Daines has long seen these moments as opportunities to make political hay — he elbowed his way to the front of the line when the President signed the historic legislation. As it turns out, the president turned around and released a budget that defunded much of the initiative, making the photo-op a bit awkward.

If Senator Daines wants a real opportunity to do something for public lands conservation, he should vote against Trump’s corrupt pick to lead Interior: Former lobbyist David Bernhardt — the embodiment of what’s wrong with the federal government as he has spun through the revolving door as a bureaucrat turned special interest lobbyist and back again.

What makes Bernhardt’s nomination so troubling is not only his history of being a part of the department’s leadership during some of its darkest days when convicted felon and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff roamed the halls wielding influence but that, all told, he is simply the most conflicted cabinet nominee in recent history.

As it stands, Bernhardt has some 27 special interest conflicts before Interior, ranging from oil and gas corporations and monied casinos to lobbying firms and influential water districts seeking to reignite Western water wars. His list of conflicts is so long that he needs to carry a pocket-sized note card to remind himself. Despite his proclaimed recusals, many of Bernhardt’s former special interest clients appear to have benefited from decisions at Interior since he began.

Senator Daines should not allow the same culture of corruption we experienced under former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to continue. Bernhardt’s record shows that he’s more interested in making sure special interests reap windfalls from departmental actions than in preserving Montana’s public lands and wildlife.

If his conflicts weren’t enough for Daines to vote no, Bernhardt’s influence as deputy director and acting secretary has had detrimental impacts on Montana.

Bernhardt led the charge in rolling back the cooperative sage grouse management plan, leaving a patchwork of regulatory uncertainty for rural communities. He’s mandated that agencies prioritize industrial oil and gas leasing over critical habitat. Under his directive, Interior even tried to auction off parcels in Montana’s cherished Big Hole Valley, home to herds of elk, mule deer and gin-clear trout river tributaries. He left our national parks unprotected during the historic shutdown causing untold damage and costs to gateway communities.

It is abundantly clear that Bernhardt is simply too conflicted to manage and protect America’s public lands. We must demand that Senator Daines stand with our public lands and Western way of life in rejecting Bernhardt’s nomination.

Chris Saeger works with Western Values Project based in Whitefish.

Print Article

Read More Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor April 14

April 14, 2019 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Let’s support all the kids First, I applaud ImagineIF libraries for celebrating diversity and for their wish to include everybody, and the Daily Inter Lake for their balanced article about the libra...

Comments

Read More

Colstrip bill sets perilous precedent

April 14, 2019 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake As former and current Montana Public Service Commissioners, we represented Montanans across this great state in balancing the needs of utilities with the needs of consumers. We took our oath of offic...

Comments

Read More

The West’s bison have endured enough

April 14, 2019 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake The Montana House passed a resolution (HJR 28) aimed at frustrating efforts to restore bison to the Great Plains. The resolution asks that Bureau of Land Management deny American Prairie Reserve’s ...

Comments

Read More

Forest plan a victory for conservationists

April 14, 2019 at 6:00 am | Daily Inter Lake The U.S. Forest Service recently completed a new management plan for the Flathead National Forest that will guide decisions on the Forest for the next 20 to 30 years more. The plan addresses a dizz...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

News: (406) 837-5131
Advertising: 406-758-4410
Bigfork Eagle
c/o Daily Inter Lake
PO Box 7610
Kalispell, MT 59904

©2019 Bigfork Eagle Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X