Letters: Gianforte turns a blind eye to public lands – again

I recently read a news story in which Greg Gianforte diminished the importance of public lands as an issue on the minds of Montanans this election cycle.

He says he travels the state and no one seems to mention the importance of our public lands. Maybe it’s a case of selective hearing as 90 percent of Montanans report visiting public lands every year and 80 percent consider themselves conservationists.

Another reason Gianforte might want to downplay the role of our public lands in Montana’s success is the fact that he personally doesn’t view them as a priority. Here are the facts:

1)   As a wealthy landowner, Greg Gianforte sued the state of Montana in 2009 to lock the public out of stream access adjacent to his property.

2)   He has sponsored legislation to remove protections for nearly 700,000 acres of wilderness study areas, ostensibly to open that public land up for development.

3)   He has raised no concerns about William Perry Pendley’s takeover of the Bureau of Land Management. Montanans will remember Pendley as building his career off litigation to sell off federal public lands on behalf of private commercial interests. Pendley is in charge of 247 million acres of federal lands without going through the Constitutional process of a Senate confirmation. Perhaps he’s following Senator Daines’s lead by sitting on his hands while Pendley keeps his job illegally?

4)   He says he supports collaborative management, but Gianforte hasn’t lifted a finger on Montana’s own homegrown public land management bill, the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act.

Montana’s public lands have a strong track record of fueling our state’s economy, supporting more than 700,000 jobs and contributing to more than $7.2 billion in consumer spending. Our public lands have provided the backdrop for healthy activity at safe distances as our nation reels from COVID-19.

Now is not the time to diminish the role our public lands play in Montana’s future.