American Lands Council, GOP Senator Silent in the Face of Questions Over Staffing Arrangement

The Bozeman Chronicle is reporting today that a Republican senator’s aide was asked to step down after it was revealed that the aide was a paid staffer of and lobbyist for the American Lands Council, a Utah group that is pushing for the takeover of Montana public lands.  Sen. Jennifer Fielder has so far refused to comment on the matter, but it doesn’t look good that an out-of-state group was paying the salary of an individual serving as Fielder’s staffer, who was simultaneously a registered lobbyist for that organization to boot.

Typically, the only lawmakers that have staffers, are the leadership (majority and minority) of the House and Senate, and these shared staffers are paid for out of the legislature’s budget  A personal staffer paid for by a lobbying group is something I certainly haven’t seen before.  The Cowgirl Blog first reported the issue yesterday morning after tipsters discovered what was happening.

Fielder has introduced multiple land takeover bills on behalf of the Utah group this session, and has been helping the out-of-staters push the scheme for the past year and a half. But most people thought the land takeover plot was just too extreme–not to mention unconstitutional and somewhat ridiculous.  Every bill Fielder introduced on this issue has died, even though Montana’s legislature has wide Republican majorities in both houses.

It’s concerning therefore that Montana’s Senate President, Debby Barrett has said she tapped Fielder as vice-Chair of the Republican party because of her stance on these very issues.  As Lee newspapers reported recently, Fielder who is currently the vice-chair of the Montana Republican Party, was “nominated by Sen. Debby Barrett of Dillon, who is now president of the Montana Senate.”

Barrett says she was impressed by the job Fielder did as a freshman senator, working on the lands issue and representing her district.

“There’s not economic benefit from the forest up there anymore,” Barrett says. “It’s a problem and she’s searching for how to address that. … She has educated herself and she’s educating other people on the issue of getting the stewardship of our lands taken care of, because they’re just going to waste.”

The Lee Newspapers also discussed Fielder’s role in a group called the Sanders County Resource Council.   But what they didn’t report is that Fielder and John Trochman, founder of the Militia of Montana, are co-leaders of that group.  Fielder is on the group’s board of directors, according to her website. Here’s the screenshot in case this gets taken down.

Trochmann founded the Militia of Montana in the 1990s after the wife and son of white supremacist Randy Weaver were killed in a standoff with federal agents in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. He’s a big figure in the national militia movement.  And the Sanders County Resource Council was formed by Trochmann specifically to serve as a front group for militia activity.  We know this because Trochmann admitted it, in a radio interview, in which he explains that for legal reasons, he now conducts much of his militia-oriented activity under the guise of several new groups, SNRC among them.

So heads up, folks. If the American Lands Council starts agitating in your state next, this is the kind of thing you’d be wise to keep an eye out for.


38 Comments on "American Lands Council, GOP Senator Silent in the Face of Questions Over Staffing Arrangement"

  1. Excellent reporting, Cowgirl. And very disturbing to learn that the Montana Militia has direct ties to Republican leadership.

  2. A lot of this nonsense could be prevented if Montana had the wisdom to provide each member of the legislature with an office and paid staff. The way the system is structured now, it’s the amateur hour and the influence of lobbyists and certain genres of bureaucrats is outsize and not always in the public’s interest.

    • California has a professional legislature and they make plenty of money, but California has more problems then Montana with our part time legislature. Any influence you mention James is related to the candidates not doing their homework.

      • Perhaps, then, California would have fewer problems if instead of having a professional legislature it had an amateur legislature that met only 90 days every two years to consider 2,444 bill requests? Please, be sure to let Gov. Brown know you have the solution to California’s woes.

  3. Ah, the tangled web the Tea-Taliban weave and capture themselves in.

  4. I think one of the biggest problems here is that legislators often – very, very often – do not even understand what their bills actually do. This can be helped sure by electing fewer stupid people – but also there are TOO MANY BILLS for these people to even try to comprehend. They should all be limited to carrying 3 bills. Then they would be slightly more likely to be able to understand or at least read them. It is no secret that the legislators do not read even a fraction of their bills. it also is pretty clear that some of the angry right commenters here do not read nor understand the bills. That is all.

  5. I saw this coming when they passed legislation setting term limits. Institutional memory is gone. There is no one to teach proper procedure or precedence to the newcomers. Lobbyists run things.
    Wackos try to change rules to favor their party and agenda. It truly is armature hour.
    We got exactly what we voted for.

  6. Just wondering when, Cowgirl, you are going to report on Tester being caught in a huge lie on Montana Public Radio.

    Just kidding. I’m not wondering at all.

      • He wonders if “progressives” (as if) should forget and forgive … but I know the answer. Yes. When it comes time, Democrats will be so scared of mean old Republicans that they’ll vote for him again. That/s a truism. Democrats bank on that fear.

        The true underlying meaning of the Tester lie is, in my view, that he, like Burns before him, is oblivious to the facts on the ground and is just reading his lines.

        And the deeper meaning still is due to national bad press for Burns that seeped back to Montana regarding Jack Abramoff (a story so big local media could not ignore it), the Timber Lobby and other powers within the state recognized that Burns might be damaged goods, and lined up his just-in-case replacement, Jon Tester.

      • BTW, George Ochenski gets to the nub of what’s driving Tester.

        Given that Sen. Tester is now the Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, one might equally wonder how well his credibility will hold up when people nationwide know that the Big Guy tells the Big Lie. That same lack of credibility on the timber issue may make Tester’s fellow senators more than a little dubious when he appears before their committees with his next logging bill.

        Make no mistake about it, Senator Jon Tester owes Montanans and the nation an apology and a clear presentation of the truth to reset the national forest logging debate on a more factual basis. Anything less will be just another example of a politician trying to spin his way out of a hole he dug with his own words.

        As the Chair of the DSCC everything he says, and every vote he makes in the Senate is about fundraising for the “campaign.” It’s all about marketing to the heavy-weight political contributors and middle-of-the road voters. Perhaps he will ever have his own Subaru dog commercial to appeal to Missoulians. Those commercials are so fuzzy warm and cute!

        • It’s kind of like Brian Williams getting caught in a lie … his job is to lie and be believable, so that getting caught lying about something minor tarnishes the overall effect of his important lying. So he’s on leave.

          Tester got caught. He went with a big, un-nuanced, full-throttle lie, and obviously thought he could pull it off. It was dog whistle politics, misinformation intended for low-information voters. It would have died on the vine had not WaPo picked up on it. That is all that is new (and a surprise to me).

  7. 60,000 homes and over 300,000 properties in Montana are risk to wildfire. EPARegion8 and USFWSMtnPrairie budgets also hit hard by lawsuits. How litigation has shaped the Forest Service:

    • See: A Citizen’s call for Ecology Forest Restoration: Forest Restoration Principles and Criteria. Note: The “Community Protection Zone.”

      See Also: Conservation Groups Release Primer to Help Homeowners and Communities Protect Themselves from Wildfire.

      Note: In total, if I recall correctly, I got nearly 1/2 million copies of this Wildfire Primer for homeowners and communities inserted in dozens of newspapers around the west, including many in Montana. Too bad, but looks like the link to the actual Wildfire Primer no longer works.

      May 2004 – Conservation groups are helping to educate homeowners and communities in four western states to better protect themselves from wildfire by inserting a primer into six newspapers on Friday, May 14. The papers include The Bend Bulletin, The La Grande Observer, The Santa Fe New Mexican, The Arizona Daily Sun, The Tucson Citizen and The Durango Herald. The primer outlines steps that Forest Service research has shown homeowners and communities should take to prepare for wildfire. It is being distributed in four western states.

      “Wildfire protection truly does begin at home,” said Matthew Koehler of Native Forest Network. “By removing the flammable vegetation around the houses and their immediate surroundings homeowners can greatly reduce the chances of their home burning down even during extreme wildfire conditions.”

      See Also: Working Together to Keep the DeBorgia Community Safe from Wildfire

      See Also: Statewide FireSafe Organization Becomes Reality

      “The establishment of FireSafe Montana shows that a wide cross-section of our society – home and property owners, insurance companies, local fire departments, conservation organizations and forestry contractors – are combining forces to offer more systematic efforts to protect our communities from wildfire,” said Jake Kreilick, restoration coordinator with the WildWest Institute and a FireSafe Montana board member. “This includes better and more accessible educational materials and resources and efforts to broaden the existing network by creating local FireSafe councils in every county in Montana.”

      See Also: Working Together, Forest Restoration and and Community Wildfire Protection Possible

  8. The Forest Service has one of the most effective fire organizations in the world and continues to keep almost 98 percent of the wildfires we fight very small. However, the few fires that do escape initial response tend to grow much larger far more quickly than ever before. In addition, the cost of fire suppression has soared in the past 20 years.

    • Not sure who you post this stuff for Larry Kurtz, as I’m pretty well versed in US Forest Service firefighting policy, and was a wildland firefighter just out of college. Yes, 98% successful initial attack rate. So much for all those ‘let-it-burn’ conspiracies, eh? Also, regarding those 2% that grow large you will find that all of them have in common: high winds, low humidity & record (or near record) drought. Also worth pointing out that many of the large fires the USFS and BLM fight (and that make up a very large % of annual acres burned in the lower 48 states) are actually range/grassland/chaparral fires…not ‘forest fires.” Although, every year the total acres burned always seem to get presented to the public as being entirely forested. Hmmm. Wonder why that is?

      • Larry seems to fade in and out on these matters, posting near looney state of mind ramblings followed by links that search engines provide him. I am picking up on some vague coherent thought patterns interrupted by bouts of dissembling.

        But I appreciate your dedication to facts and manners, Matt. I would be more like you, but I am me.

  9. Matt; when a Waldo Canyon or Black Forest or High Park Fire takes out Red Lodge or South Helena or some other Montana town will you earth haters be the first to blame Senator Tester or in Toke’s case Cory Gardner for not doing enough to see that forests that haven’t been ‘natural’ for two hundred years are being restored to their aspen habitats?

  10. Tell it to the people of Lame Deer, Matt, or Poplar, or other reservation community without the resources to clear around their homes. It’s the job of the federal government to find the money to finance those activities and in Montana logging is one of the ways. Monkey-wrenching just for the hell of it is hardly earth friendly.

    • Apparently you are unaware of goats. Try searching “goats fire prevention.” Since Tester portrays himself as a friend of reservation tribes perhaps he could find them some fire prevention goats, or is that just another ‘Big Lie’ too?

      • Don’t get me wrong. You will likely not find a bigger fan of goats on this forum. But I do notice that none of the enviro-warriors are here defending or reviling your suggested use of what can be an invasive species to protect homes, range land or even perhaps municipal water supplies …

  11. Rob, Craig is a waste of my time both here and at 4&20 where, as expected, he is piling on Senator Tester, too. Montana uses contract goats along roadways, no?

    • Holding Tester accountable is “piling on.”


      • Of course, worst crime ever. I’m certain the outrage will be overwhelming and the justice swift.

        What’s that? Nothing will happen? Well then, carry on.

        (Only those with authority can hold anyone accountable, Mark. You have none, even as you try to hold the rest of us accountable for Tester’s actions which have offended you so. You have no authority. You lose.)

  12. In 2018 when Senator Tester is up for reelection nobody but Craig, Toke and their earth hater buddies will care that Jon used a bit of hyperbole to draw attention to a few enviros trying to drum up business for their little firms.

    • Hyperbole? Bullshit. He lied, got caught, and made matters worse by refusing to issue a unqualified apology. Now you’re equating criticizing him for his untruths with supporting activities that lead to forest fires. That’s an utterly irrational argument, and by making it you’re making a fool of yourself. Why? What happened to you to make you so terrified of forest fires that you resort to ugly argumentum ad hominem attacks on people who believe their U.S. Senator should tell the truth?

      There’s no defense for what Tester told MPR about timber sale litigation. There’s also no defense for your accusing his critics of being firebugs. Get a grip on yourself.

      • At stake here is a constitutional provision known as the right to petition government for redress of grievances, or sue. Tester is merely fulfilling his real function, that of a representative of real power, in this case, the resource extraction industry. He stepped into the shoes of Conrad Burns when Burns sustained political damage due to the Abramoff affair that damaged his public credibility.

        A bench player got the call-up, Jon Tester. He squeaked by in 2006, and was defeated in 2012, but rescued by dark money in a clever ploy to take advantage of gullible libertarians. He’s now a minority senator who owes his career to the source of that money, still unknown.

        The resource extraction industry has had unaccountable power over Montana for centuries. At one time Anaconda Copper owned most of the major news outlets in the state, a situation known as the “copper collar.”

        There is an assumption that this situation ended when Lee Enterprises took over those newspapers in the 1950’s. Think again. And while you say there is “no defense” for Tester’s statement, Rob Chaney and the Missoulian disagree. They put together a tortured piece wherein redress of grievances via lawsuit is a “fringe” activity stopping the big boys, the important people, the loggers in this case, from unfettered access to our commons. Doggone it folks, Tester may have misstated his old self, but he’s just trying to deal with pesky fringe citizens who use the constitution get in the way of real power.

        Nothing ever really changes in Montana.

  13. I’m beyind bored with your personal viewstream of Matthew Koehler!

    Surely there is some helpful way you can draw in attention and interest,
    to your skills, plans and missions.

    If Matt is what you allude him to be, then the Koch Bros. are secret, silent Partners in Patagonia, Paul Newman Brands, and R.E.I.

    And are jointly a voting Member of MEIC.

    Bob Williams

  14. Back in the late ’80s, after the Great Northwest Log Haul (remember that precursor to the Montana Militia flare-up?) when those of us who were just trying to read the writing on the wall and could have used a friend, Pat Williams accused us of being “eco-terrorists”. Moderate buckling to extreme ranting is nothing new, it repeats itself over and over again, and we know the result, which is why we expect an apology. Why should environmentalists have to justify ourselves to anyone anymore? What planet are you living on that you accuse us of hating this one?

    • Bill,

      Great (Great Northwest Log Haul) memory. We hired the plane dragging the “Support Wilderness” banner that buzzed the fair grounds during Rep Ron Marlenee’s speech. Too much free Coors flowing in the crowd. Forever thankful for the Missoula County Sheriff’s officeers safely assisting our modest pro-environment group safely off site before any physical violence erupted. A very close shave.

    • Matthew Koehler | March 1, 2015 9:22 AM at 9:22 AM |

      Jim Elliot writes: “Rightly or wrongly, there are groups that object to almost anything to do with timber harvest.”

      Washington Post Fact Checker (after CHECKING THE FACTS!) writes: “First of all, let’s examine Tester’s claim about every logging sale. According to Tom Martin, a Forest Service deputy director for renewable resource management, there are 97 timber sales under contract in Montana’s national forests. Of that number, just 14 have active litigation, so about 14 percent. But only four of the sales are enjoined by a court from any logging.”

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