Fox Montana: Senator Daines Looks to Expand Access to Public Lands

Senator Steve Daines spoke during an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the re-authorization of the Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act.

He emphasized the importance of reforming federal forest management with regards to the recent fires in Montana and other surrounding states.

“I have heard some concerns regarding some challenges surrounding permit renewals on federal lands in Montana. In fact, in your testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee, you said permit renewals sometimes face ‘runaway analysis’ from the National Environmental Policy Act, and unfortunately, permittees are required to recover those costs from the agency like a ‘blank check,’ according to one Montana outfitter,” he said. “How much of that uncertainty for the outfitters and agencies can be fixed by streamlining NEPA? Do you have any recommendations on how to create more certainty for those who facilitate access to our public lands?”

David Brown from the American Outdoor Association responded that using categorical exclusions could help reduce costs according to a press release from Daines.

“When permits come up for renewal, the have to have NEPA analysis currently,” Brown said. “As you know in Montana, in the Bob Marshall those costs are $100,000 for a group of small businesses, which is fairly significant.”

Additionally Daines noted the necessity of classifying wildfires as natural disasters and implementing forest reform.