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In a recent column (August 6) Chuck Denowh, a known for-hire political operative, rushed to the defense of William Perry Pendley, the controversial new head of the Bureau of Land Management and specifically called out Montana Conservation Voters for publicly opposing his appointment.

But who is Mr. Pendley? In short, he’s one of the largest threats to our public lands and outdoor way of life as a national leader in support of selling off our public lands, as he articulated in the National Review in 2016: “The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold.” This anti-public lands crusader is now in charge of managing nearly 250 million acres of public lands.

That’s right, folks: the man who supports selling our public lands is now overseeing them.

Unfortunately, Montana’s junior Senator Steve Daines has remained silent. Daines has said nothing about this grave threat to our public lands and continues to stand idly by, hoping yet again that nobody in Montana will notice his inaction.

And that’s where MCV comes in.

You see, Senator Daines has figured out that if he pretends to support public lands or says just enough by saying nice things about our public lands, that he will somehow get a free pass. But Senator Daines, there are no free passes when it comes to Montana’s future, and it matters who your friends are.

MCV will continue to ask Senator Daines why, after getting credit for “full funding” of the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund, he only requested partial funding--even though this critical conservation tool doesn’t rely on taxpayer money, and even though he’s a member of the majority party with control over the U.S. Senate’s agenda.

MCV will continue to ask why Senator Daines, as chairman of the Senate Western Caucus, is hosting a forum in California this month with Karen Budd-Falen, another notorious anti-public lands zealot. Ms. Budd-Falen represented Cliven Bundy, who in 2014 led an armed standoff against federal and local law enforcement agents. Now she is being paid with our tax dollars to make decisions about our public lands at the Department of Interior and she has a new ally in Mr. Pendley.

Senator Daines also twice supported Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who “undid agency rules” that protected our public lands.

By keeping anti-public lands friends close and supporting their ascent to power, Senator Daines is putting all Montanans’ outdoor heritage at risk and that shouldn’t sit well with any Montana voter.

Especially because no matter what any partisan hack tries to tell you, Montana’s economy is at stake. Our public lands are responsible for an over $7 billion dollar outdoor recreation economy, directly supporting more than 70,000 Montana jobs.

When any administration, Republican or Democrat, wants to mess with that, we expect all of our elected leaders to show up, show courage and stand up for Montana and our economy. Senator Daines, Montanans are waiting.

Whitney Tawney, a fifth-generation Montana hunter and angler, is deputy director of Montana Conservation Voters.

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