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LibbyMt.com > News > January 2010 > Rep. Denny Rehberg in Libby

Rep. Denny Rehberg listens to comments. Photo by LibbyMT.com.
Rep. Denny Rehberg listens to comments
Rep. Denny Rehberg in Libby
For wilderness bill comments
by Maggie Craig
January 17, 2010

U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg visited Libby Saturday afternoon for a 1½ hour "listening session" regarding Senator Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. After a brief introductory background regarding his political history, Rep. Rehberg opened the floor to the audience, which numbered an estimated 200-250 people.

The session had originally been scheduled to be held in the Ponderosa Room of Libby City Hall, but was moved to the Libby High School gym at the request of the Libby Volunteer Fire Department, which feared a capacity crowd for the smaller City Hall venue. Rep. Rehberg came to Libby, and has visited other towns in Montana, to gauge public support for Sen. Tester’s "wilderness bill," as it has come to be called.

Besides Libby and Troy, people came from the Yaak, Flathead Valley, Eureka area, and Sanders County. Several audience members lined up to speak their mind regarding the bill. A few, such as Wayne Hirst, Marianne Roose representing the Lincoln County Commissioners, and Robyn King of the Three Rivers Challenge spoke in favor of the bill, stating they supported the bill because of the jobs created or because the bill achieves a balance of resource use and wilderness designation. Rita Windom, former Lincoln County commissioner, pointed out that the logging component isn’t sustainable or achievable, and the bill’s components won’t work. Tony Berget, county commissioner, thought the legislation could be tweaked to release some lands for management, and that the litigation issue should be addressed. Charlie Decker also thought that the bill should include some language that holds environmental groups monetarily accountable for appealing timber sales should they lose their appeal.

The greatest applause, however, came after those who spoke for "no more wilderness." Several people stated that the bill was unconstitutional and illegal. Some thought there was too little timber harvest. Most were skeptical that jobs would be created with the bill. Not particularly relating to the bill, some made comments about wolves, gates, global warming and planet population.

Rep. Rehberg periodically interjected with comments reminding the audience of such things as:

• Like it or not, public lands belong to all the public, including those who live in other parts of the country and who might not understand exactly how and why certain management activities occur.
• He would like to find a solution to the wilderness issue. Do we really want no bill that would maintain the status quo? He would like to find a consensus that would mean passage of a bill that everyone could live with.
• He refers to this as a wilderness bill, because wilderness is the only thing that’s guaranteed in this bill. He would like to find ideas that ensure the bill will work, and jobs would be created.
• He has three main issues of concern: state’s water rights, the appeals process on public lands, and release of lands for future management.
• The county could consider taking a vote to get a sense of the will of the people concerning the wilderness issue. And the American public needs to pay attention to what their elected officials are doing.
• When he votes "no" on an issue, it’s because he thinks there’s a better solution.
• He can’t represent all of us, although he tries to do so to the best of his ability. He concluded many years ago that he can’t satisfy everyone, and that if everybody’s happy, he’s probably not doing his job.

With that and a thank-you for the public participation, Rep. Rehberg and his three staffers were out the door and on their way back to Billings for the night. For the most part, the audience seemed to appreciate the opportunity to speak and to hear about an issue of great importance to northwest Montana.

For Rep. Rehberg’s opinion dated 1/13/10 regarding what he’s heard from Montanans during the month of January about this legislation, visit his web site at Rehberg Opinion. Though Libby was the last of the public listening sessions, Rep. Rehberg will still take public comment. Visit his web site home page at Rehberg.house.gov for contact information.

For more information about Senator Tester’s bill, visit Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

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