Friday, July 11, 2014

Standing Up For Federal Public Lands Against the Far Right - Pat Connell

Recently, the Montana Republican Party held their convention June 19-21 in Billings, Montana. At the convention, one of the party planks proposed was the transfer of Federal Public Lands to the states. This was reported as being a unanimous vote. Yet after the convention a news article ran  - GOP vote on land turnover wasn’t unanimous which quoted Connell, “Whether or not recognized by the chair or yourself due to lousy acoustics, I, for one, did vote in opposition, and I believe there were a handful of other nays,” Rep. Pat Connell, R-Hamilton, a certified forester, said in an email to the State Bureau. “While I have spent a career encouraging and promoting better management of federal lands, I do not advocate the wholesale transfer of federal lands’ responsibility to the states due to the incredible liability risks to the taxpayers of Montana such action would create.”

Due to the conflicting information, I wanted to find out directly from Rep. Pat Connell of Hamilton, what his stance on transfer of Federal Public Lands to the states is. Rep. Pat Connell is running for Senate District 43. He beat Sen. Scott Boulanger in the Republican Primary. Sen. Boulanger did not win the current seat he holds, it was appointed to him by the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee.

Rep. Pat Connell replied to my inquiry with this statement, "I have argued from local to the halls of Congress for enhanced federal land management - but transfer to the state isn't the way. Demand adequate vegetative management to protect our watersheds: volume, quality and timing of water flow. Montana can expect this as a result of the Water Compact signed by the USFS and Montana ( The only one that the fed has done with any state! ). Easiest way that I can explain it is right now,  is that 330 + million taxpayers have the burden of paying for the cost of ownership and management of these lands. Montana has 1 million folks. Do the math, and the liability risks.
Likewise, the water compact with the tribe: do a risk assessment of them pursuing their claim through the Federal District Court in Missoula upwards through the 9th Court of Appeals, and the likelihood that non tribal Montanans would get a better deal is slim to none in my opinion."

As a retired forester, Connell uses a signature quote from Gifford Pinchot, a forester who served as the first Chief of the United States Forest Service, on his emails, "Conservation is the wise use of resources for the benefit and enjoyment of ALL mankind ..."

I, for one, am grateful that we have a legislator willing to take such a stand for our Federal Public Land ownership. But, Connell is getting backlash from the far right Republicans that have been orchestrating the attacks on our Public Trust (principle that our natural resources - land, water, wildlife, etc., are held in trust for the public and their future generations).

Connell objects to Ravalli County Republican Central Committee request

"A Republican state legislator from the Bitterroot Valley got into a tiff with the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee over the weekend when he refused the group’s requirement to sign the party platform in order to be reimbursed for his registration fee at the state GOP convention.

Rep. Pat Connell, who serves in House District 87 at the southern end of Ravalli County, is running as the Republican candidate for Senate District 43 this November.

He attended the Montana Republican convention in Billings June 19-21. On July 3, he and the other Republican candidates from Ravalli County received an email from Sue Pyron, secretary of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee.

In the email, which was made public on the political blog, Pyron said the central committee had unanimously voted on June 10 to 'fund only candidates who agree to sign and support the Republican Platform.' "

In addition, Sen. Scott Boulanger, who was defeated in the Republican Primary has labeled Connell as a RINO - Republican in name only. This is a faddish attack by far right Republicans to marginalize what some might call traditional or moderate Republicans. I was born and raised in Texas. My family are generational straight party Republicans. I campaigned for Reagan before I was old enough to vote in the 1980 elections, so I fully understand the Republican Party from the inside. But the more I got involved in politics, researching and voting on issues, I came to view myself as an Independent, in the sense that I dont vote party politics, I vote on issues, so I may have a mixture of candidates from different parties on my ballot. So Boulanger's attack on Connell, trying to discredit Connell as not being a true Republican, is low.

I may not agree with Connell on all his positions or his voting record, but there is nothing to indicate that Rep. Pat Connell is not a Republican. In an article in the Ravalli Republic, 2014 elections: Connell to challenge Boulanger for state Senate seat, the legislator effectiveness between Connell and Boulanger is addressed. “Comparing Scott’s record, who was absolutely unsuccessful in passing a single bill that he sponsored, I was successful in seven different bills as sole sponsor,” Connell said in a phone interview with the Ravalli Republic. “Including the wildland fire suppression fund that, first off, reduced waste and year-end shenanigans with any money left over in the different departments, so that money would pay for wildland fire suppression instead of expecting the taxpayers and the state legislature to pick up the tab in the legislature. I sponsored that bill, it passed with bipartisan support overwhelmingly. Scott opposed it. He called it a slush fund at a luncheon meeting. But protecting the taxpayer from having to pick up the tab of wildfire is not a slush fund.”

If you take a look at the Montana Legislative website, doing a search for Sen. Scott Boulanger you will see this page.
This shows that all the bills requested by or sponsored by Boulanger died, as the article above states, except HB 245, which Champ Edmunds sponsored.

As a legislator, representing his constituency and working with other legislators, Pat Connell has a good reputation of doing just that.

So back to the Federal Public Lands transfer issue, if you take a look at Scott Boulanger's Facebook pages, you see that he very much advocates the transfer of OUR Federal Public Lands to the states.

As a US Federal Public Land Owner, as a Montanan rich in federal public lands and as a conservation hunter that advocates for the Public Trust Doctrine, this is a no brainer. All other voting issues are the same state to state. There will always be education, health care, economic, women and children issues, etc., no matter where you live, especially in the concrete jungles of all US major cities. But an issue that most states do not have is the abundance of our wilderness, rights and access of Federal Public Lands, for all US citizens to enjoy and this is right here in our own Montana backyard, so to speak. Boulanger and others want to take that away. 

Boulanger is not content with the Republican Primary results, so he is now embarking on a write in campaign, based on his Facebook page (click image to enlarge), where he states "Real Republicans" are angry. Boulanger wants to steal your Public Trust lands and their resources to privatize them. Pat Connell is a real Republican. A real Republican that sees the value of not only our Federal Public Lands, but the Montana state economic best interests of keeping them in the Federal hands. A Real Republican that stood up for Federal Public Lands against an agenda driven plank in the party platform led by Sen. Jennifer Fielder. Not only do these Federal Public Lands contribute to our outdoor heritage, but they contributed to the $5.8 billion dollars of Tourism and Recreation income that was brought into Montana, that means Montana jobs as well. Nonresident Values of Montana’s Natural Areas report our Federal Public Lands - natural areas, are a major attraction to Montana's tourism and recreating, which includes out of state hunting.

In this election, learn who the candidates are that uphold your Public Trust lands, not special interest agendas that would rob you of your Federal Public Lands. Stand up and Vote for your Public Trust.

Kathryn QannaYahu

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