Western Caucus Calls out MT Senators

Aaron Flint posted on August 18, 2010 12:39 :: 1936 Views

As an update to my “Transparency Delayed” post, it is worth starting this post off by adding a correction to my earlier entry.  And, in the interest of transparency, as Senator Tester’s staff would say, my original post is included below.   

Earlier this week, Senator Jon Tester’s staff sent out a press release stating how, “in the interest of transparency,” his office was releasing documents pertaining to the Obama Administration’s “Treasured Landscapes” initiative.  That document contains info detailing a new potential national monument in Montana.  

It was pointed out to me that Senator Tester was not the member of Congress releasing that document, but that of Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus. 

I spoke with Congressman Bishop Wednesday afternoon.  Here’s what he had to say: 

Click to Listen

Melissa Subbotin, spokesperson for the Congressional Western Caucus went even further, saying this to Montana’s US Senators:

Senator Tester’s placement of the Internal DOI Documents on his website- after Rep. Bishop had made them public- is a nice attempt at transparency, but it hardly comes close to the expectations that Americans have for an open and fully transparent government.  Senators Tester and Baucus have had the opportunity to join with their fellow Western Senators by signing on to the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act, which would help protect Western states and especially the hard working folks of Montana whose livelihoods depend upon access to the land.  However, their names are noticeably absent from the list of Western Senators on this bill, which is similar to that introduced in the House.  


According to a press release from Senator Jon Tester’s (D-MT) office, Tester has released more documents pertaining to the Obama Administration’s discussions concerning a new national monument here in Montana.   

The press release says the documents are being made public “in the name of transparency.”  This, after an initial batch of documents were first leaked last Spring showing plans to create a new national monument stretching from Fort Benton to Fort Peck, Montana.  Since that time, the House Western Caucus and Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT) have been calling on the Obama Administration to release all the documents concering the monument discussions. 

Tester’s spokesman, Aaron Murphy, had this to say:

“Jon had an opportunity to read the whole draft memo after seeing it for the first time Friday and he’s pleased that it mentions the importance of public support and participation for future land planning.  This is in line with what Secretary Salazar told Jon directly—that any plans from the Interior Department need broad public support before moving forward.”

Nonetheless, as this latest news release was sent to the Montana press corps “in the name of transparency,” thousands of documents remain hidden from the public.  This latest document can be found in full on Tester’s website by clicking here.

Pay particular attention to the top of Page 5, which tells the Administration to use the Antiquities Act to create the monument, “should the legislative process not prove fruitful.

Here’s what Ron Poertner told The Great Falls Tribune:

“I think it’s great they are releasing some of the information,” said Ron Poertner, treasurer of the Winifred-based Missouri River Stewards, which is made up of landowners in the Missouri River Breaks National Monument. “We talk about open and transparent government but they were pretty slow in getting it out there.” 

Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT) had this to say Tuesday afternoon:

“While I’m glad the Department of Interior has finally released these pages, I can certainly understand why they wanted to keep them a secret.  A single sentence acknowledging the benefit of public input won’t appease Montanans when the rest of the document lays out plans to circumvent that input if it doesn’t fall in line with the pre-constructed plans of unelected Washington bureaucrats.  The new pages make a disturbing case for bypassing Congress with a unilateral Presidential designation of National Monuments.  This was the worst-case scenario, and it’s no longer hypothetical.”

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