What’s his game?

Our proud representative for the whole of Montana, Denny Rehberg, recently gave testimony opposing the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act. He is quoted as saying that “more than 96% of us who live in these areas oppose this bill.”

Mr. Rehberg, perhaps, needs to get out a little more. Could he even find a single town, city, or pub in which 96% of people know about NREPA, let alone oppose it?

Instead, the harsh reality is, as outfitter-extraordinaire, Smoke Elser and a broad-ranging group of experts recently noted:

It has been 26 years since Montana has permanently protected a single acre of wild country. Since our last wilderness area was added in 1983, the nation has seen 439 new wilderness Areas created, none of them in Montana.

And, although I don’t know exactly where the figures come from, former state senator Paul Richards recently suggested that “78 percent of all Montanans support full protection for our region’s remaining National Forest roadless wildlands.” (I think he may be counting comments from the more than 1.6 million Americans wrote comments on the federal roadless protection policy, which is a dubious gauge of public sentiment. But, still. We would all agree that Montanans like wilderness.)

Then, in another scoop for NewWest.net, and then two days later in the paper of record, Denny Rehberg suggests that he is not opposed to wilderness just because he is opposed to NREPA. Instead, Rehberg says that,

The worst thing we can do for the public land we all cherish so much is put faceless federal agencies in control of something as important as land management.

Nevermind the hard-working folks in the U.S. Forest Service, all the National Park Service rangers, the proud federal firefighters , or the numerous fish & game agents that work at our National Wildlife Refuges. Denny doesn’t call those federal servants names, but he sure doesn’t seem to trust them, either.

What is the alternative? Turn over the public lands to the state government?

Perhaps, then, he might take a look at the what is going on all around the country. That’s right, state governments are struggling these days.

* In California, Governor Schwarzenegger is proposing to padlock and close nearly 80 percent of California’s state parks.

* Arizona is going to close 8 state parks.

* Out in Washington, a state park representative suggests up to spokesperson for the parks says they could see the closure of as many as 40 state parks.

* And, in Illinois, former Gov. Blagojevich closed 11 state parks and 13 historic sites.

So, let’s put the two together – first, take the public land away from the government of the American people, and second, give them to state agencies who can’t afford to manage them. The result? Further loss of confidence in government and increased calls to privatize the whole shebang. That’s right – why not let KOA, Backcountry Horsemen or even Disney manage our parks and wilderness? Aha, that’s his game.

And, he thinks that’s a workable solution that truly reflects Montana? I’m shocked, just shocked. Just when Montanans need their forests, parks, and wilderness more than ever, Rehberg simply wants to take them away from us!

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