Daines Calls for Montana Solutions to Land Management, Coal Jobs and Increasing Access to Public Lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Steve Daines today advocated for the Department of Interior to better incorporate Montana-driven solutions in the management of Montana’s public lands, energy resources and wildlife habitats.

During this morning’s Senate Committee on Appropriations hearing on the Department of Interior’s fiscal year 2016 budget request, Daines pressed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to work more collaboratively with Montana in the conservation and management of the state’s sage grouse population. Daines also called for Department funds to be better utilized to expand access to public lands and pushed back against the Department’s recently proposed energy regulations that could have a devastating effect on Montana coal jobs.  

After failing to adequately answer Daines’ questions regarding sage grouse management during last week’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Daines pressed Secretary Jewell to ensure that Montana’s state plan is incorporated into the Bureau of Land Management’s sage grouse conservation efforts.

“With the checkerboard nature of some of our lands in Montana, those sage grouse don’t know whether they are on a BLM section, a state section, or a private section,” Daines stated. “We would just like to have the state have primacy there, to get that all aligned on one plan so that it would reflect a lot of work going on back home in Montana for the folks that are closest to the bird. We all want to ensure that we protect the Sage Grouse and prevent the listing.”

Daines also emphasized the importance of the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as a critical tool to expand access to public lands for sportsmen and the men and women who enjoy the outdoors. Daines stressed that two million acres of public lands in Montana are currently inaccessible to the public, and called on Jewell to better utilize the LWCF program to increase access to these areas.

In the House, Daines also served as the lead sponsor of the Making Public Lands Public Access Act, which reserves the greater of 1.5% or $10 million of LWCF monies to specifically increase public access to existing public lands.

In the hearing, Daines also pressed Jewell on the Office of Natural Resource Revenue’s proposed rule to reform royalty valuation for coal, oil and gas. Daines stressed Montanans’ ongoing concerns that the rule as drafted could have adverse impacts on Montana’s and tribes’ economies and the thousands of jobs coal supports, impose serious ramifications on domestic energy production and create uncertainty in the value of coal royalties that Montana and other states depend upon.

Jewell admitted that the Department of Interior has not calculated the impact of the proposed rule on coal jobs and domestic energy production.

Last month Daines succeeded in extending the comment deadline to allow the state of Montana, Montana tribes, union members and business owners more time to provide input on the proposed rule. Daines led more than a dozen in Senate and House members in calling on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to extend the deadline.

Daines’ full letter to Secretary Jewell is available HERE.

Video of Senator Daines’ remarks from today’s hearing is available here.