Voices: Greg Gianforte a danger to Montana’s public lands heritage
To my fellow hunters and anglers, there are people trying to lock you out of your favorite spots. In November it's time to vote like your access depends on it.
Montana Republicans have nominated the most anti-public lands, anti-conservation slate of candidates in modern Montana history.
Led by Greg Gianforte, who sued you and me, the Montana taxpayers, to block our public fishing access on a beloved Montana river. The threat he poses to our public lands cannot be overstated. Make no mistake about it – our fishing and hunting spots are on the ballot.
Greg Gianforte, whose running mate, Kristen Juras, is an avowed anti-access attorney, has proven his anti-public lands bonafides time and again. He repeatedly opposed full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He supports transferring management of federal lands and opposes buying any new land for state parks or fishing access sites. He even authored legislation in Congress to strip protections from nearly 700,000 acres of public lands — without any input from Montanans — a move described by conservation advocates as potentially “the single biggest rollback of protected public lands in Montana history.”
The Montanans I hunt and fish with are hard workers who honor their commitments, but not Gianforte. We gave him a job, and he promised to represent us. But when it came time to show up for work, Gianforte broke his promise and skipped more votes than 93% of his colleagues. He even skipped work on days when crucial votes to provide $200 million in funding for state and local water pollution reduction were on the schedule. None of us would get away with breaking promises or skipping out on our job, and neither should he.
When Gianforte served on the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands subcommittee, the committee responsible for overseeing and protecting Montana’s pristine outdoor heritage, he was absent for more than half of the scheduled meetings, leaving the concerns of Montanan out of the conversation.
Among the events Gianforte couldn’t be bothered to show up for? Hearings on bills to support the recruitment of recreational hunters and shooters, dedicate more than $1 billion in funding to conserve our wildlife, and protect federal forests and grasslands from the threat of wildfires and other risks.
Montana only has one representative in the U.S. House. So when Gianforte decided to skip out on his job in Congress, Montana’s hunters and anglers had one there to stand up for our public lands. These are betrayals that Montanans should never forget.
Any sportsman knows that wealthy out-of-staters, like Gianforte's rich buddies, pose a huge threat to the continued viability of Montana’s incredible outdoor heritage. If we give him a chance, he and Juras will do their bidding by removing dozens of accesses across our state. Your hunting or fishing spot will be treated just like that river access he tried to remove.
Public lands are the one place in our lives that equalize us all. Every Montanan can experience world class recreation without the need to be a millionaire or an owner of a private jet. Greg Gianforte can use his fancy plane to fly to big resorts in far off places. He obviously does not care about these lands, but we sure do – I want to make sure that my two boys and all the kids of Montana continue to have the same opportunities that we all share now.
Nothing could be more American than our public lands, and it's bad enough when scoundrels from other states try to attack them. But we ought to be particularly angry when one of those scoundrels is running to be our Governor. For the sake of all Montanans, and all of those to come after us, we must reject Greg Gianforte this November. Our outdoor heritage is at stake.
Ryan Busse is past board chair of Montana conservation Voters, past North American board chair for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and outdoor industry vetran. He lives in Kalispell with his wife and two boys and spends nearly every spare moment hunting and fishing on our public lands and waters.