February 11, 2020 News

Montana Anti-Public Lands Front Group Pushes Destructive Campaigns

MoneyTrails.org Focuses on Monied Influence on Western State Public Lands and Policy

Though Montana’s legislative session is a year away, special interest industry influence is still relentlessly trying to push against the state’s public lands and wildlife protections. Western Values Project (WVP) — an Accountable.US project based in Montana, defending America’s public lands — is making public their in-depth research concerning special interest monied influence on Montana’s and other Western states’ public lands and natural resources available on their MoneyTrails website

“One of Montana’s most insidious groups, the Montana Group, is a conduit between the extractive industries seeking to exploit Montana’s public lands and the dangerous astroturf campaigns and front-groups trying to sell their special interest agenda by pulling the wool over Montanans’ eyes,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of Western Values Project. “While the group operates in the shadows, its’ principles have deep political ties within the state, even to the scandal-plagued former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, making them the go-to shop for these types of anti-public lands astroturf campaigns.” 

The Montana Group operates as a public relations firm intent on producing anti-public lands nonprofit groups and campaigns. Leadership at The Montana Group is made up of lobbyists who work on behalf of several big corporations, coal interests, and industry development groups. Some of the group’s spinoff nonprofit projects include The United Property Owners Of Montana, which opposed public land protections under monument designations, like the Upper Missouri River Breaks, and often uses their voice to carry water for out-of-state interests that merely own land, second homes, or ranchettes in Montana.

The group also ran an insidious campaign that fought against public lands protections on behalf of the coal industry. The now-defunct “Count on Coal Montana” campaign echoed widely-used coal industry talking points. Learn more about this dangerous group here.

O’Neill continued, “With special interest influence relentlessly trying to upend public lands protections, MoneyTrails is a resource for the public, as well as decision-makers, in our continued fight to keep public lands in public hands by exposing front groups seeking to undermine our outdoor heritage for their narrow interests.” 

Public lands are a critical part of Montana’s economy, tax-base, well-being, and employment rate, supporting 71,000 jobs, generating $7.1 billion in consumer spending and $286 million in state and local tax revenue.

MoneyTrails highlights research on two special interest groups operating within Montana that are trying to influence public lands policy in the state. Look for more reports as new astroturf groups pop-up.

MoneyTrails was created by WVP to document the influence that special interest groups, industry executives, and anti-public lands front groups exert on public lands issues throughout the West. The taxpaying public deserves to know how these monied groups are attempting to affect public land decisions to benefit corporations and special interests, and MoneyTrails is a resource intended to shed light on these critical issues.