When the new Wilderness Bill was announced, Montana’s only member of the House of Representatives, Denny Rehberg, immediately came out in opposition to it in a poorly worded, poorly organized and factually empty statement quoted in this story in the Missoulian: “I oppose this legislation because it’s a top-down approach that doesn’t properly take into account the impacts on the local economy. Nor does it adequately protect access for hunting, fishing and other forms of recreation,” Rehberg said in a statement. “I’ll continue to work to implement responsible policies to protect Montana’s natural resources.”
Is there perhaps more motivating his opposition to the bill than that simplistic statement implies?
In March, 2007, Rep. Rehberg held a fundraising event at, of all places, the exclusive Yellowstone Club near Big Sky Montana., which is owned by, as pointed out in this story in the Billings Gazette his friend Tim Blixseth. While some of us might have been able to scrape together $1,000 to attend the event, most of us couldn’t come up with the minimum price for a home there ($1,000,000) or even the $300,000 necessary to join their private country club.
Rep. Rehberg’s friend Blixseth is an interesting person. As mentioned in this story in the Missoulian titled “World’s most expensive home’ for sale in Big Sky”, Blixseth “built the ultra-exclusive Yellowstone Club, a members-only ski and golf resort. Several years ago, he sold a 20-acre lot there for $20 million, at that time the most expensive housing lot in the state. He put the club together after buying 140,000 acres of scattered Plum Creek Timber Co. lands in 1992, then going through a series of land swaps with the U.S. Forest Service that consolidated both public and private holdings. Blixseth and his partners paid about $25 million for the Plum Creek properties, he has said”.
There was also an interesting story in the March 5, 2006 edition of the New York Times about the life and career of Tim Blixseth. It appears he is one of the highest-rolling developers in the world today. Here is that story.
Considering Rep. Rehberg’s ties to Blixseth, I am compelled to ask: is Rep. Rehberg motivated to support the preservation of Montana’s natural resources, or the exploitation of them? I am reminded again of the two sets of rules: one for the rich, and one for the rest of us. It is beginning to appear obvious which set of rules Mr. Rehberg has chosen to by play by.
It seems to me that the saving grace here is that Wilderness bill H.R. 1975 is neither in the hands of Denny Rehberg nor Tim Blixseth, really: it is now at the National level and in the hands of the American people. The natural resources that it would protect, while located in the five Western states, belong to everyone in America. Because it is at the National level, you all can play your own parts in this by voicing your opinions to the elected Representatives from your own states.
At the moment, it seems that Montana doesn’t seem to have anyone in the House to defend our natural resources. However, I think a vote of thanks should be given to its sponsor, Rep. Carolyn Maloney from New York and all of the bill’s cosponsors from other states who can be seen listed here.