Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Female leadership key to breaking public land logjam

Two weeks ago, sweeping bipartisan public lands legislation defied the odds by sailing through Congress with overwhelming support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Now it is on to the White House for the president’s signature.

In the current highly partisan atmosphere in Washington D.C., this kind of bipartisan action is truly remarkable. We can thank two women for it.

In Montana, we are big winners in the passage of this legislation, now named the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act. Montana priorities including the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act (YGPA), were included in the final bill.

LWCF is arguably the most effective conservation and recreation program in the nation, and permanent reauthorization is a huge win for all of the parks, trails, ball fields, swimming pools, fishing access sites, and wildlife habitat enabled through LWCF investment. The next step for a secure future for LWCF is full, dedicated funding.

YGPA will permanently protect the wild lands and the Yellowstone River from mining exploration at the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park. Thanks to the active, bipartisan, and engaged Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, Montana’s delegation banded together to swiftly protect some of Montana’s most sacred lands and waters.

What is most interesting – and inspiring – about S. 47, is that two women from different sides of the partisan isle led and tirelessly championed this national bill that benefits so many Americans.

Lisa Murkowski (R) of Alaska is chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (SENR), and Maria Cantwell (D) of Washington is the former ranking committee member of the SENR. In the last 115th Congress, these two women worked together for the betterment of all – rather than bow to partisan politics – to swat down detrimental proposed amendments during committee hearings as well as Senate floor hearings with grace and dignity.

As 2018 neared a close and a shutdown appeared imminent, Murkowski and Cantwell pressured leadership in both the Republican and Democratic parties to keep the legislation alive, pulling the procedural levers to fast-track the legislation. Murkowski did not settle until she received formal confirmation from Senate Leader McConnell that he would bring the legislation to the Senate floor immediately in 2019.

McConnell lived up to his promise. The vote count in both the Senate and the House sent a clear message: American lawmakers can still work together.

Here is the point: Two women leaders from different parts of the nation, with different priorities and political leanings, did what so many other lawmakers could not. They kept their dignity, they used their leadership, and got business done.

All of America owes Sens. Murkowski and Cantwell a nod of thanks. And here in Montana we also see examples of effective, focused, conservation leadership by women.

Thank you to Bozeman’s own Maddy Pope of Trust for Public Lands for her tireless vision and implementation of the Story Mill Park. Thank you to Mary Hollow of the Prickly Pear Land Trust in Helena for her energy to connect public and private conservation. Thank you to Tracy Stone-Manning in Missoula for her leadership with the National Wildlife Federation to develop a dedicated Lands program to add to NWF’s national wheelhouse.

Women can do hard things. For the benefit of all. Let’s see more of it.

By:  Becky Edwards
Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle