Motorized Recreation Group Claims Green Activists Threatened Montana Lawmaker
A group founded by a state representative claimed on social media that he was threatened during a committee hearing at the Capitol Monday. But others at the same hearing say they heard no threats.
Citizens for Balanced Use posted on Facebook Monday night that Representative Kerry White, a Bozeman Republican, was threatened by environmentalists during a public comment period on a resolution he proposed.
White's House Resolution 9 would urge Congress to release seven Wilderness Study Areas in the state for multiple use.
Here’s Representative White at the hearing:
"I'm a very strong proponent of active forest management. And currently these lands in Wilderness Study Areas in the state of Montana are basically in limbo. The Forest Service doesn't have a lot of options for how it can manage those."
The seven Wilderness Study Areas White is asking to be released were established by the Montana Wilderness Study Act of 1977. These areas are managed as Wilderness, meaning you can't ride mechanized vehicles or build new roads, but they're still waiting for Congress to designate them as Wilderness areas. That was supposed to happen in 1982.
More than 100 people showed up to testify, the vast majority opposition to White's revolution. But John Todd says he didn't hear anything he would consider a threat.
"Rep. White's insinuation is as false as it is absurd. I was at the hearing with my 7-year old daughter. I did not testify, and I had to leave early because it was a school night and it was getting close to her bedtime."
Todd is the conservation director for the Montana Wilderness Association.
After the hearing, White's group Citizens For Balanced Use named Todd, along with four other Montana-based conservationists, in their Facebook post, which asked, "Has it really come to bodily harm and threats for their cause?"
John Todd was the only one of the five people named in the Facebook post who attended Monday's hearing.
Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, was also named in the post. He called it part of a disturbing trend, in which both of Montana's Senators have called environmental groups "extremists" for opposing timber sales.
"This is just part of what happens when politicians call citizens who are exercising their rights under a democracy to voice their viewpoints, when they start calling them names, that it leads to something like this where people start making up that we are now violent."
The Facebook post by White's group says he was escorted out of the Capitol building under police protection after Monday night's hearing. Jayson Zander, a lieutenant with the Helena Police Department, says no threats were made to any Representatives on Monday, though one person testifying became emotional. He says an officer did offer to escort White to his vehicle, as they left the building at the same time, and added with three officers assigned to the capitol complex during session, this would fit into an officer's duties.
When called for comment, Representative White said he was, "not interested" before hanging up.
The post on Citizens for Balanced Use’s Facebook page was removed Thursday afternoon.
The House Natural Resources Committee did not take action on House Resolution 9 on Monday.