Daines Strengthens Access to Public Lands, Stops Obama’s Regulatory Overreach

U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines today secured many important resources for Montana to fully fund wildfire suppression, prohibit President Obama’s overreaching Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, promote responsible public lands policies and honors Indian trust responsibilities. 

The Senate Committee on Appropriations today passed the bipartisan FY2017 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill which funds the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), U.S. Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and other agencies.

“As a fifth generation Montanan and avid outdoorsman, I value Montana’s vast natural resources and our way of life – and Montanans don’t want the federal government breathing down their back telling them how to manage their private property,” Daines stated. “WOTUS is an attack on private property rights – it’s not about clean water it’s about private property and that’s why I’m standing up against it.” 

The bill funds contract support costs for the Indian Health Service and BIA in support of tribal self-determination.

Daines secured the following resources for Montana:

Royalty Policy Committee: Reestablish the Royalty Policy Committee to ensure greater transparency in creating royalty and leasing policy for mineral production from federal and tribal lands. 

Reducing Harmful Regulations

WOTUSThe bill prohibits the implementation of the Waters of the United States rule.

  • Daines has been an outspoken critic of President Obama’s WOTUS power grab. Daines is also cosponsor of S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, that would direct the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to issue a revised WOTUS rule that protects traditional navigable water from water pollution, while also protecting farmers, ranchers and private landowners. Senate Democrats blocked this legislation from advancing on November 3, 2015.  

Stream Protection Rule Funding Prohibition: The bill prohibits funding for the proposed Stream Protection Rule.  This proposed rule is harmful and unnecessary and will substantially impair the domestic industry’s ability to meet our nation’s energy needs. It would harm both surface and underground coal mines, decreasing between 27 percent and 64 percent of recoverable coal reserve.

  • During Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing on October 27, 2015, Daines raised concerns about DOI’s proposed “Stream Protection Rule” and its potential impact on Montana coal mining. 

Curbing EPA Overreach: Prohibits the EPA from requiring duplicative financial surety rules on the mining industry, and continues to prohibit the EPA from regulating certain types of ammunition and fishing tackle. The bill includes an impactful decrease to EPA’s budget by relative to the last fiscal year. EPA’s overreach and costly regulations have served to the detriment of Montana’s energy industry, farmers and ranchers. The limitations included in this bill will help protect Montana jobs, private property rights, and robust energy industry, which is vital to the state’s economy.

Tribal Priorities 

Indian Health Service (IHS)The bill includes $4.99 billion for the IHS. The bill includes an $82 million increase for Contract Support Costs, representing the full amount of contract support costs owed to tribes. Additional funds are focused on suicide prevention, domestic violence prevention, and alcohol and substance abuse problems. Funds are also included for infrastructure improvements to health care facilities. It also directs IHS to update its performance metrics to better address patient health outcomes.

  • Daines has consistently called on IHS to work more collaboratively and efficiently with Montana’s tribes relating to healthcare. Daines has sought to ensure federal monies are spent more directly on tribal health care services, rather than unnecessary federal bureaucracy. 

BIA Forestry: BIA forestry is funded at $54.155 million. Montana is home to some of the most heavily forested tribal Reservations in the country and this funding for BIA Forestry is a step in reaching parity with other forestry programs.

  • Daines recently introduced the Tribal Forestry Participation and Protection Act that will improve the health of both Indian and federal forest land. 

BIA Public Safety and Justice: The bill includes $386.921 million for tribal public safety and justice programs. This support is critical given severe public safety threats that currently exist on Montana’s Indian Reservations. 

Public Access and Federal Land Management

Expedited Forest Management: The bill directs the Forest Service to utilize the 2014 Farm Bill’s expedited management authorities to combat insect and disease. In Montana, nearly five million acres in our National Forests are eligible for expedited management using these authorities. The bill also includes increased funding for forest management ($396 million, a $20 million increase), which will boost the pace, scale and effectiveness of management work and protect Montana jobs and enhance the environment. 

LWCF: Funded at $400 million, which covers five Montana projects: Madison River Special Recreation Management Area; Whitefish Lake Watershed Project; Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument, and Upper Missouri Wild and Scenic River; Swan Valley; Red Rocks Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

National Park Service Centennial Initiative: The National Park Service Centennial Initiative is funded at $66.5 million. The upcoming 2016 Centennial anniversary poses a significant opportunity to enrich and modernize our National Park System, including providing sufficient funding to help national parks revitalize deteriorating park infrastructure.

Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT): The bill fully funds PILT at $480 million. The federal government controls roughly 30 percent of Montana, and PILT is essential for the health and safety of Montana’s rural counties.

Wildland Fire Suppression: This bill includes $3.78 billion to fight wildland fire, including fire suppression funding at 100 percent of the 10-year average at $1.6 billion. The bill would also end the destructive practice of “fire borrowing” and make fire suppression expenditures above 100 percent of the 10-year average eligible for disaster assistance. These provisions will help keep Montana families safe and make our forests healthier.

  •  Daines is a cosponsor of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which overhauls federal wildfire policy, increases funding for prevention and ensures large forest fires are treated and funded as true natural disasters. This legislation ends the damaging practice of “fire borrowing” and ensures that megafires are treated as true natural disasters. Daines’ release on the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act is available here.

Bighorn Sheep Conservation and Vacant Grazing Allotments: The bill includes language that prevents permittees from being punished if their allotments are deemed unusable by the Secretary for natural causes if vacant grazing allotments are available in the region. Additionally, it requires federal agencies to improve transparency and collaboration with state and local counterparts, as well as permittees and other stakeholders, regarding research and findings related to disease transmission.