Senator Hinkle says, not on my watch!

Here in Montana, we put a lot of value in our public lands. They give us access to our outdoor way of life, and drive our economy. You would think that State Senator Jedediah Hinkle, a self-proclaimed protector of “our Montana Heritage,” would support any opportunity to celebrate these lands. Right? After all, his district ranges from the edge of Bozeman to West Yellowstone. It includes some of our most spectacular public lands, which bring a big economic benefit to local businesses and residents.

Senator Jedediah Hinkle

Recently, Rep. Virginia Court of Billings proposed a bill that would recognize our lands with their own day — Public Lands Day — here in Montana. Schools and the public could take the opportunity to celebrate our diverse public lands and to honor conservation heroes like Teddy Roosevelt.

Really, this seems like a pretty straightforward piece of business. It recognizes that our public lands are an important driver of the Montana economy, and it gives a shout-out to the places that make our state so special.

Well, Senator Hinkle didn’t like it.

How can the guy whose district includes access to Yellowstone National Park, the Hyalite-Porcupine, the Lee-Metcalf Wilderness, the Taylor-Hilgard Basin, and the Gallatin River be against the celebration of these lands by school kids and families?

Horse train in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Alzada Roche.

Hinkle was joined by his officemate, Senator Jennifer Fielder, in an attempt to squash this bill. Not great company as she is known for her attempts to sell off federal public lands, which could ultimately hurt our ability to use them.

In the hearing, Hinkle nitpicked over language and semantics. The bill’s sponsor offered to let him amend the bill’s language if it would make him more comfortable. But he didn’t take her up on that offer. It makes you wonder if he was really interested in getting this bipartisan bill passed, or if just wanted to argue for the sake of argument.

This was a simple, feel-good, non-controversial bill that would have celebrated something we all love. Come on, Hinkle. Even the U.S. Senate could pass a resolution by a 100-0 vote establishing a National Parks Week, and we all know how effective those folks are! You can do better than this.