Montana land advocates concerned over Trump’s expected Interior nominee

President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), as the next Secretary of the Interior, leaving Montana outdoors and conservation groups concerned about her track record on public lands. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

By Martin Kidston

President-elect Donald Trump’s expected nomination of Cathy McMorris Rodgers as the next Secretary of the Interior should “raise a red flag” for Montanans who care about the responsible management of public lands and water, several state groups are warning.

Both the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and Montana Conservation Voters are urging Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines to block McMorris Rodgers’ path to appointment, saying her history in Congress runs contrary to Montana’s outdoor heritage and values.

Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Montana, is also rumored to be in contention for the post

“It’s clear McMorris Rodgers doesn’t value our public lands or outdoor heritage,” said Juanita Vero, board chair with Montana Conservation Voters. “She has voted time and again to auction them off to the highest bidder. In Montana, we value keeping public lands in public hands, and her record on our land and water is deeply disturbing.”

McMorris Rogers, a U.S. representative from Washington, has sponsored or backed a number of bills aimed at selling off public lands, limiting public-land acquisitions, and favoring the interests of the oil and gas industry, opponents said.

In 2011, she co-sponsored the Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act, which would have transferred ownership of more than 3 million acres of public lands to private interests, had it passed.

Last year, she advocated to limit public land acquisitions using the Land and Water Conservation Act. In 2014, she also supported legislation introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, that would have limited the president’s authority to create national monuments.

“Representative McMorris Rodgers’ track record in Congress should raise a red flag for Americans who care about the responsible management of our public lands and waters,” said Land Tawney, president and CEO of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “Her misguided positions on public lands are troubling to say the least.”

According to Montana Conservation Voters, McMorris Rodgers has taken more than $355,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry over her career.

While in Congress, the nominee has voted in the industry’s interest several times. She opposed oil and gas ‘fracking’ measures on public lands, and voted to cut funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency while increasing funding for fossil fuels.

Her lifetime score with the League of Conservation Voters stands at 4 percent, and was a zero in 2015, the group said.

Advocates of protecting public lands said Trump has pledged to keep public lands in public hands. They said they’d work with the Trump administration to fund proper management and uphold land and water conservation values.

“We will remain absolutely focused on overcoming efforts to sell, transfer or otherwise turn over management of public lands to state or private interests.,” said Tawney. “Our public lands represent our nation’s best idea, our kids’ inheritance, and our past, present and future.”