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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Aug 01 2018

Beaverhead Co. Residents Want Commissioners to Follow Lead of Vanilla Ice

Majority at public meeting urge lawmakers to “stop, collaborate, and listen”

Last night, public land owners in Beaverhead County proved Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte wrong on public lands, and reminded them why they should heed the advice of late-80s rapper, Rob Van Winkle (see below). 

By 7PM, nearly 200 people had crammed into a meeting the Beaverhead County Commission should have held last year. A majority attended to express frustration with the county for supporting the largest conservation rollback on public lands in Montana history without first meeting with their constituents.

After surveying the overflow crowd, commissioners called an audible. It would be impossible for everyone to offer comment, so, they ordered a straw poll on Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte’s legislation to remove protections on more than 800,000 acres of public land currently managed within 29 wilderness study areas.

One by one, the assembly responded by voice vote and, according to multiple sources, a majority in attendance opposed the legislation.

By our unofficial count, 182 were in attendance with 72 voting for the legislation and 110 against. According to the Montana Standard, 165 were in attendance including 39 residents of neighboring counties. The Standard reports 33 people from neighboring counties voted against the legislation and 5 in favor, while county residents were “evenly split” and six people declined to vote. 

The vote was the latest example of public opposition to legislation authored by Daines and Gianforte, who refuse to hold public meetings on the issue. They claim no public process is necessary since they have supportive letters from several county commissions. Increasingly, however, those letters appear to be a paper-thin cover up for actual public opinion, which stands – clearly now – against the legislation.

Consider the following demonstrations of opposition by Montanans this year:

  • In February, Ravalli County Commissioners were compelled to hold a meeting following public outcry about their letter of support for Daines and Gianforte’s bills. Of 75 people who testified, 55 expressed opposition to the legislation, according to the Ravalli Republic. The commission also received 78 written comments in opposition compared to 31 in support.
  • Between February and May, three counties and two cities -  Missoula, Butte-Silver Bow, Anaconda-Deerlodge, Helena and Whitefish – have sent letters to Daines and Gianforte expressing concern with the legislation and requesting public meetings.
  • In April, Gov. Bullock also expressed concern with the legislation, citing an open-letter of opposition from more than 2,000 Montanans and over 100 businesses, organizations, and elected officials.
  • In May, a poll conducted, in part, by one of the nation’s largest Republican pollsters showed that 81% of Montanans favor keeping WSAs as they are now or taking a tailored approach that adds protection in some areas while removing protections from others. This poll remains the only objective measure of statewide opinion on the legislation.

Unfortunately, Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte have so far ignored or dismissed these meetings, letters, and even the bi-partisan poll because these records of public opinion contrast with their legislative goals. 

But here’s the rub: Montanans didn’t elect these guys to pursue their agenda. We elected them to pursue our agenda. 

To that end, we encourage Daines and Gianforte to follow a simple three-step program, first pioneered by Van Winkle in 1989 while performing as “Vanilla Ice”.

First, remember that Montanans’ support public land conservation in poll after poll after poll. Second, abandon your legislative agenda to remove protection on 800,000 acres of public land. Third, hold public meetings, consider a range of options, and introduce new legislation that reflects a compromise among public land users.

In other words: STOP, COLLABORATE, and LISTEN.


NOTE: Beaverhead County Commissioners will accept public comment from county residents through August 13 on whether they support or oppose Daines and Gianforte’s anti-public lands legislation. Comments can be emailed to:

Or mailed to:

2 S. Pacific St., suite 4
Dillon, MT 59725


- Gabriel Furshong, MWA Deputy Director