Sportsmen sealed reelection for Sen. Jon Tester

 

Outside special interests dumped some $30 million dollars on the Montana race for the US Senate between Democratic incumbent Jon Tester and Republican challenger Denny Rehberg, but the race came down to something that costs $19: A Montana resident hunting and fishing license.

Sportsmen issues of access, wolves and gun rights headlined both the news columns and the advertising in both campaigns. Sen. Tester convinced Montanans he understood their values, and their outdoor way of life.

Montana voters went for Mitt Romney 56-43, and then turned around and reelected Sen. Tester by a margin of five percentage points. Rehberg spent nearly $10 million trying to convince Montanans that Tester was a liberal clone of President Obama. That message failed.

It failed in part because Tester invested major political capital in listening to Montana sportsmen and women, and then pulling the levers of power for them.

• Tester worked with Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Simpson to get wolves off the endangered species list and managed by state wildlife agencies. Some out-of-state environmental groups attacked Tester for that right up until Election Day, but that only helped bolster Tester’s Montana street cred.

• Tester was happy to work with the gun industry, for example pushing legislation preventing the EPA from regulating lead in bullets. The gun manufacturers’ lobby, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, named Tester their 2012 Lawmaker of the Year. Even though Rehberg got an A+ ranking from the National Rifle Association, the potent NRA was noticeably absent from the race

• Tester helped bring Montanans together and protect habitat as wilderness and restore fishing streams through the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. This bill also has the support of Montana sawmills and would mandate some logging, which has earned it the ire of some environmentalists. On the other hand, groups like the Montana Wilderness Association and Trout Unlimited support it. Rehberg tried to pound the age-old wedge issue of wilderness against Tester, but it got him nowhere.

• Rehberg supported two pieces of legislation that rankled hunters and anglers. One would have opened up backcountry national forests (called roadless areas) to industrial development. These are prime elk hunting areas and important for coldwater fisheries, so they opened up Rehberg to criticism from hunters and anglers. Another bill would have waved environmental regulations for the Border Patrol within 100 miles of Montana’s 500-mile border with Canada. Again, that exposed a weak spot that Rehberg’s critics aimed for.

The race attracted enormous outside spending because the control of the Senate was in play. Montana, with less than a million voters, was seen as good investment from outside special interests on all sides.

The race was close. Every vote counted and was fought hard over. But there’s no denying the hunting and fishing vote helped set up the debate, and helped seal the outcome.

Ben Long is an outdoorsman, conservationist and author in Kalispell, Mont. He is senior program director for Resource Media.

High Country News Classifieds
  • NEW AGRARIAN APPRENTICESHIP
    Quivira Coalition's 2020 New Agrarian Apprenticeships in Regenerative Ranching and Farming -Apprenticeships run 4/20 - 11/20 Applications accepted 10/15/19 - 12/1/19 NAP partners with skilled...
  • PHILANTHROPY DIRECTOR
    Wilderness Workshop seeks a full time Philanthropy Director to raise funds for our team. Learn more: www.wildernessworkshop.org
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT WITH WESTERN RESOURCE ADVOCATES
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks an enthusiastic and organized problem solver to join our growing team as an Executive Assistant. The Executive Assistant is instrumental...
  • WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL
    Two positions: Development Director OR Development Writer, Communications Director. Full job descriptions at https://wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org/careers.
  • CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    Great Land Trust seeks to hire a Conservation Project Manager. Position is full-time, based in Anchorage, Alaska. First review of applications will be on October...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eagle Valley Land Trust Executive Director Position Description Summary of Position: The Executive Director, working with and reporting to the Board of Directors, has overall...
  • FINANCE & LOGISTICS COORDINATOR
    The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, founded in 1928 as an independent nonprofit organization, is a biological field station located near Crested Butte, Colorado. Our primary...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    See Full Job Description
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Position: Development Coordinator Responsible to: Executive Director Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per week, or as otherwise agreed upon General Description: The Development Coordinator assists the...
  • EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Friends of Cedar Mesa seeks a full-time Education Manager for the Bears Ears Education Center to provide day to day operational and administrative oversight. See...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED SCP SOUTHWEST REGIONAL DIRECTOR
    Seeking to hire an experienced advocate/manager to oversee the organization's sportsmen/women-driven advocacy in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Open until filled
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    for northern AZ collaborative conservation ranchlands group
  • AMAZING PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    If you're an amazing Program or Education Manager looking for an exciting and fulfilling position with an organization that makes a difference in the community,...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Partners are seeking an experienced and energetic Executive Director who is excited about the opportunity to lead our growing organization! A full description of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country News Seeks an Executive Director to advance its mission, grow its audience and influence, and strategically and sustainably guide the organization through a...
  • 2 PROPERTIES ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Organic farm, hot springs, San Francisco River runs through both. [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • SOCIETY FOR WILDERNESS STEWARDSHIP BOARD MEMBER
    Join the SWS board and help us broaden, diversify, and engage the wilderness community.
  • NEW MEXICO BIRDER'S PARADISE.
    Fully furnished 2B/2B home near Bosque del Apache NWR, great for nature lovers.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.