Sen. Steve Daines holds Senate subcommittee hearing live at Grant-Kohrs Ranch Thursday

Wanting to highlight Montana’s lesser visited national parks, Sen. Steve Daines will host a National Parks Subcommittee Senate hearing live at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site north of Deer Lodge.

The Republican senator has invited a list of officials, from Powell County Commissioner Ralph E. Mannix, Jr., to Toby O’Rourke, president and chief executive officer of Kampgrounds of America Inc., to hold a conversation about how to increase visitation at all of Montana’s national parks. Others who will be there to talk will include Palmer “Chip” Jenkins, Intermountain Region National Park Service acting regional director, and Sarah Bannon, executive director of the Southwest Montana tourism region.

Julia Doyle, Daines’ press secretary, said via email that one of the focuses of the conversation will be how an increase of visitors to a national park site can benefit the local economy.

Subcommittees hold hearings only a few times a year, Doyle said. “That’s why this is a big deal,” she said. 

“Daines fought to get a national parks field hearing in Montana,” Doyle said.

He held a National Parks Subcommittee field hearing in Gardiner last year, she said.

Doyle said the event will be live-streamed through Facebook. The public is welcome to attend, but because it is an official Senate hearing, there won’t be a question-and-answer session. Daines will be chairing the hearing.

Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site is located at 266 Warren Lane in Deer Lodge.

“As Chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee, I look forward to bringing key stakeholders and the National Park Service together in Deer Lodge to discuss how to expand visitation at all of Montana’s great national parks,” Daines said through a news release last week.

Daines has called the national parks, America’s “Department of First Impressions.”

Jacqueline Lavelle, Grant-Kohrs superintendent, said the ranch is a national historic site and is one of eight historic sites or historic trails managed by the Park Service under the Department of the Interior. She said the only national parks in Montana are Glacier to the northwest, and Yellowstone to the southeast.

Lavelle said Grant Kohrs Ranch gets about 26,000 visitors a year. She said the number of visitors grows incrementally, but enlarges every year.