Earlier this past year, Rep. Steve Daines earned nods from the conservation community for his introduction of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, legislation that completes a transboundary agreement with Canada to protect the North Fork drainage from potentially harmful resource extraction. Despite Denny Rehberg's equivocation on the matter, protecting the North Fork, the western boundary of Glacier National Park and one of the least trammeled river drainages in Montana, isn't exactly a bold, unprecedented move. Canada passed analogous protections a while back, and even the energy and mining companies holding leases have offered to release those claims in the name of the public good. Purportedly, it's the bipartisan cooperation that appeals to Daines with regard to the North Fork (his words), which makes his reluctance to support the two other made-in-Montana public land management bills before Congress seem a bit regressive. Most remarkably, during a congressional session singularly characterized by brinkmanship both Jon Tester's Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and Max Baucus' Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act enjoy substantial bipartisan supportthe Heritage Act unanimously soas they both have moved out of Senate committee.
Rather, Daines has decided to co-sponsor a bill introduced by Rep. Don Hastings from Oregon, legislation that advocates forest clearcuts and other antiquated notions of forest management, and as a result has virtually no chance of moving beyond the House. This isn't news to Daines, who is thus willing to back a bill doomed to failure for the sake of scoring cheap political points instead of working constructively with his democratic counterparts in the Montana congressional delegation to seek a way forward for all Montanans.
Daines will rightfully receive my adulation when he actually demonstrates some level of leadership with respect to these pieces of legislation and conservation more broadly, rather than rehashing the same failed strategies of his unemployed predecessor.