In Montana, the land is our livelihood and provides us our unique way of life.
As a fifth-generation Montanan and avid sportsman, I know hunting, fishing and access to public lands is an important treasure for our families. As a kid I hunted in the Bridgers, backpacked in the Beartooths and fished the streams of southwest Montana with my grandfather and my dad — and still do with my own family.
Just last week, I pushed through a bipartisan energy bill that modernizes our energy policies: Ensuring access to our public land, helping our local businesses, our mining industry and supporting our hunters and anglers.
For the first time, we permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) which ensures that our children and grandchildren have the same access to our public land that I did growing up in Montana. As tourism is an important economic driver in our state, we must also ensure that we have the ability to keep Montana’s businesses in business. There are many small businesses in Montana that depend on our thriving outdoors economy, overall supporting 64,000 jobs and over $5 billion per year in consumer spending.
I also know that Montana sportsmen are frustrated with their current level of access to public land. And they are frustrated with fringe groups who are obstructing worthwhile projects that are important to effectively managing our forests. By increasing transparency, we will now know how taxpayer dollars are being spent to reward extreme environmentalists who repeatedly litigate against responsible, Montana-made forest management projects. Through this legislation, I secured important reforms that promote and protect access to Montana’s public land and increase recreational opportunities for hunters and anglers.
Montana’s best-paying jobs rely on our wealth of natural resources. This bill makes it easier for us to expand export markets for natural gas, allowing more American energy to power the world, opening the door for American entrepreneurialism and innovation to lead the way.
Montana is the fifth-largest producer of hydro-power in the nation and we have 23 hydroelectric dams. This bill strengthens our nation’s hydro-power development by defining hydro as a renewable fuel — this is great news for Montana and well overdue.
This bill also improves federal permitting of critical and strategic mineral production — which supports 22,000 good-paying Montana mining jobs and is essential to our national security and international competitiveness.
The absence of just one critical mineral or metal could disrupt entire technologies and entire industries, creating a ripple effect throughout our entire economy. For example, the Stillwater Mining Company provides one of the only sources of palladium and platinum in the world.
We still have more work to do to fight back against Washington, D.C., anti-energy regulations that will cripple Montana’s economy. By working together, we can build upon Montana’s all-of-the-above energy portfolio to strike the right balance between developing our natural resources and protecting access to the public land that Montanans so deeply treasure.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.