Montana to gain congressional seat?

Rockies Today for Friday, January 5

Today’s top stories from around the region curated by Mountain West News

Montana’s growth projects a second House district

The political consulting firm Election Data Services recently reported the possibility of Montana gaining a congressional seat after the 2020 U.S. Census. The forecast assumes that Montana’s population will continue growing at its current pace, in which case the state would have enough people for two House districts for the first time since 1992.

Once a two-House-district state, Montana hopes to be again

At just more than one million people, Montana’s at-large district is by far the nation’s most populated and nearly twice the population size of the two House districts representing Rhode Island, which are the nation’s smallest.

Montana’s political parties have argued for three decades that by having only one House seat the state is underrepresented and that the size of the district — more than a 10-hour car ride east to west — is unworkable.

The old line, which paralleled the rocky Mountain Front, ran south toward Livingston. It put Republicans in control of the east and Democrats in control of the west.

Montana’s interests both socially and economically east to west are too different to be represented by just one person, said Jeff Essmann, a state legislator from Billings and past chairman of the Montana Republican Party. Two representatives would be significant regardless of how the seats were politically aligned.

Three other Western states could also add a representative:

On Christmas Eve, Interior dropped coal in stocking

Just before Christmas, the Interior Department quietly rescinded an array of policies designed to elevate climate change and conservation in decisions on managing public lands, waters and wildlife. Order 3360, signed by Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, explains that the policies were rescinded because they were “potential burdens” to energy development.

Interior revokes climate change and mitigation policies

The order echoes earlier mandates from President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to Interior’s 70,000 employees: Prioritize energy development and de-emphasize climate change and conservation. The order is another in a long string of examples of science and conservation taking a backseat to industry’s wishes at the Interior Department under Zinke.

David Hayes, President Barack Obama’s then-deputy secretary of Interior, said the policy rescissions were very significant because these policies guided the agency’s field staff in how to manage the nation’s vast resources at a time when climate change is already impacting public lands in many ways. “It would be irresponsible as land managers not to take into account these risks, such as drought, fire, invasive species, potential sea level rise, storm surge impacts, wildlife impacts — all of which already are being felt,” Hayes said.

The order:

The twilight of a Yellowstone ‘winterkeeper’

Steven Fuller, the “winterkeeper” at Yellowstone National Park’s Canyon Village, welcomed his 45th consecutive New Year’s morning in the park by skiing into a whirl of falling graupel and trees jangling like wind chimes. Mountain Journal’s Todd Wilkinson watched him glide away into the Hayden Valley. Here, Wilkinson recounts his recent visit with Fuller, writes something of a profile of the man who’s witnessed more than 14,000 sunrises in Yellowstone, and includes a Q&A.

Twilight Of The Winterkeepers

In his bones, Fuller knows that change is coming as the clock of nature and temporal existence keeps ticking. Old Faithful’s eruption seems predictable, reliable and eternal; his tenure in Yellowstone — it’s been a longer one than any of his peers in the park’s storied history — is ephemeral, he admits as seasons of memories flash by.

On our spinning, increasingly-crowded planet with 7.5 billion human souls, Fuller is, in extraordinary ways, one-of-a-kind — a modern anachronism. He is a jack-of-all-trades engineer keeping Canyon’s buildings operating during the busy summer season. But philosophically, he is a throwback — a mixture of Henry David Thoreau, Henri Cartier Bresson, Ansel Adams, and with pinches of Lao Tzu, Edward Abbey and Noam Chomsky thrown in for good measure.

None of them, however, have courted solitude as he has.

A video about Steven Fuller produced by CBS Sunday Morning in 2015:

ONEOK proposes pipeline from Montana to Kansas

The proposed $1.2 billion Elk Creek Pipeline is a 900-mile, 20-inch diameter pipeline that would transport up to 240,000 barrels of natural gas liquids per day from the company’s Riverview terminal in eastern Montana to Buston, Kansas. ONEOK’s president says the pipeline “will strengthen ONEOK’s position in the high-production areas of the Bakken, Powder River and Denver-Julesburg regions.”

New $1.4 billion pipeline should help oil and gas producers in Denver-Julesburg Basin

In recent years, the extra production coming out of the Denver-Julesburg Basin has gone through the Overland Pass Pipeline, which also serves the Piceance, Green River, Power River and Bakken areas.

But that pipeline is getting full and is running out of room to take on the extra liquids coming out of the region as production ramps up again, said Marissa Anderson, a senior energy analyst for BTU Analytics in Lakewood.

‘How Sinclair Stole the Airwaves!’

The D.C.-based nonprofit Allied Progress’s Grinch-themed mailer was intended to bring a little levity to its criticism of broadcast giant Sinclair’s proposed merger with the Tribune Media Company. One landed in the mailbox of a reporter at the Missoula Independent, and also those of employees at Sinclair-owned stations like Missoula’s KECI.

Sinclair Broadcast Group got Grinched

Sinclair announced plans to acquire Tribune last May, roughly a month after reaching a $240 million purchase agreement for Bonten Media Group Holdings, then-owner of KECI, KCFW in Kalispell and KTVM in Butte and Bozeman. That deal was finalized in early September. The $3.9 billion Tribune acquisition is still awaiting approval by the FCC, with the commission’s 180-day timeline for a decision set to expire later this month. According to Sinclair’s FCC application, the merger would give the company access to 72 percent of American households, a scale made possible last year by an FCC rule reversing an Obama-era ownership cap.

The Tribune deal doesn’t directly affect any Montana-based stations, as Tribune doesn’t own any here. However, groups including Allied Progress and Free Press contend that FCC approval would lead to an erosion of local coverage, pointing to Sinclair’s practice of crafting news content the Washington Post claims favors “conservative causes and candidates.” Following his departure from Trump’s communications office last spring, Epshteyn joined Sinclair as the company’s chief political analyst, producing regular commentaries for distribution to Sinclair’s stations.

[Allied Progress director] Karl Frisch considers Sinclair’s bid to consolidate such a large swath of the broadcast world a particularly troubling development for largely rural states like Montana, where people rely heavily on local stations for news, weather and sports. Just because no Montana stations are subject to the Tribune acquisition, he says, doesn’t mean other acquisitions aren’t on the horizon. Hence the push to keep elected officials, the FCC and the media focused on the issue even during the holiday lull.

“What we’re looking at right now is not the meal,” Frisch says. “We’re looking at the appetizer.”

Colorado Republican Gardner stands up to Trump

Cory Gardner, the junior senator from Colorado, who heads the campaign operation charged with hanging on to the Republicans’ Senate majority, is becoming known as someone who will do more than posture when he and the Trump administration disagree.

'That's the model': Republican Cory Gardner stands up to President Trump

The latest and most striking example came Thursday, when Gardner, who is 43, announced that he will stand in the way of every nomination that the Justice Department sends to the Senate. Late last year, he and Trump were in opposition over the Alabama Senate race.

“Cory didn’t look for a fight in either case. It came to him and he responded vigorously. And to me, that’s the model,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who knows Gardner well.

His latest move came in protest against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s new policy allowing federal prosecutors to crack down on the marijuana industry — a reversal of Obama administration policies, and a blow to states such as Colorado that have legalized cannabis despite federal law against it.

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His position is undoubtedly beneficial to his own political situation, given the popularity of legal marijuana in his home state, a battleground where he will be facing reelection in 2020.

While Colorado defies any party label, it has a strong libertarian streak. In 2012, it became one of the first two states to legalize pot for recreational use; a year later, voters there recalled two state senators who had voted for stricter gun laws.

Though he has a staunchly conservative voting record, Gardner, a former Senate staffer and state lawmaker, has proved skillful at navigating his state’s tricky political terrain.

More stories we’re reading today…

Mountain West News is a regional news service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana and is underwritten by the Center’s Norm Creighton Endowment Fund, supporting the Center’s public outreach and publications. MWN is also supported by a grant from the High Stakes Foundation, and receives generous support from its many loyal readers through donations and gifts. Thank you all.

Montana to gain congressional seat? was originally published in Mountain West News on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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