President Barack Obama recently launched “America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.” As part of that, representatives from the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture and the White House Council on Environmental Quality will host meetings across the country to gather feedback on conservation policy and to find ways to better connect people with the ideas. One “listening session” is planned in Helena and another in Missoula.
While the events would seem uncontroversial, Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg calls the initiative “mysterious” and uses it to, once again, criticize the administration’s private discussions with environmental groups about setting aside millions of acres in the West. From Rehberg’s office:
“Public meetings should be the first step in crafting policy, not the last. While I’m glad the White House and its agencies are finally coming to listen to Montanans, I’m skeptical about how much good it will do this late in the game. The fact is, they’ve been working for months in secret on policies impacting our state. We only learned about it after portions of an internal memo was discovered. Far from being open and transparent, the Department of Interior still refuses to release more than 2,000 pages of relevant information relating to their plans, including the missing pages of that memo. Despite what they’re calling it, it’s not really a public event if you need tickets, and it’s not really a listening session if the agenda is fixed ahead of time. At the 44 listening sessions I’ve held around Montana, anyone could come and talk about anything they wanted. That’s what Montanans expect, and it’s what they deserve.”
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