HELENA – The campaign for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is in full gear, with one month left before voters will decide who will replace former Representative Ryan Zinke.
Democratic candidate Rob Quist and Republican Greg Gianforte have both made significant efforts to discuss the issue of public lands and access to hunting and fishing.
Both Quist and Gianforte have gone back and forth on television ads taking shots at the issue from both sides.
“Protecting access to public lands,” a line from Gianforte’s ad Montana’s Side from March 3, highlighting where he stands on major issues. Public lands made an appearance once again in Gianforte’s ad War on the West from March 16, where he said “I’ll defend our right to hunt, fish and recreate on public lands.”
On the flip side, Rob Quist has used public lands for his campaign as well. In an ad from April 4 titled Voice, Quist said, “I will be a voice for you to defend our land from private developers.” Then just six days later, another ad targeting the sale of public lands came out, titled No Wonder where Quist said, “No wonder they want to sell our public lands to private developers.”
Both Quist and Gianforte say they are lifelong outdoors and sportsmen.
KTVH requested the public records regarding the hunting and fishing licenses for both Quist and Gianforte from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
FWP’s automated licensing system dates back to 2002 and turned up the following history:
Rob Quist has not had any fishing or hunting license since 2002 while Gianforte has multiple licenses each year for the 16 years, including resident sportsman with bear, antelope, deer, mountain lion and turkey.
For the full report on Quist’s history, click here.
For Gianforte’s full history, click here.
Wednesday, the Quist campaign issued a statement to KTVH, explaining the reason behind the absence of outdoorsmen licenses.
“Born and raised in Cut Bank, Rob Quist has been an avid sportsman his whole life, however for the past few years, Rob has been unable to get out as much as before because of a surgery in the mid 1990s that went wrong. Unlike his opponent, Greg Gianforte who sued the people of Montana to block public stream access and has given thousands of dollars to special interests groups seeking to privatize and sell off Montana’s public lands, Rob has been advocating for keeping Montana’s public lands public his entire career,” said Tina Olechowski, communications director for Rob Quist’s campaign.
Quist’s long medical issues are no secret to this campaign cycle. He has publicly commented on a gall-bladder surgery that went awry in 1996 which led to years of financial instability.
Olechowski added that Quist is committed to fighting for access to public lands and streams, if elected to the House.
Gianforte’s history with the lawsuit over public lands access is nothing new to the campaign trail. That issue was a major talking point during the 2016 gubernatorial race as well.
When it comes to the accusation of being a proponent of the sale of public lands, Gianforte’s Campaign Spokesperson Shane Scanlon issued a statement Wednesday saying, “Greg has always been clear on this issue, our public lands need to stay in public hands and he opposes efforts to transfer federal lands to the states.”
Scanlon added Gianforte’s lengthy history of licenses from FWP can be attributed to his outdoor enthusiasm.
“Greg is an avid sportsmen and outdoorsman who enjoys hunting and fishing on Montana’s public lands. One of the most rewarding experiences of Greg and Susan’s lives together has been passing along these Montana traditions to their four children. Greg understands that hunting and fishing is part of our Montana way of life and will always fight to preserve this tradition for future generations,” Scanlon said.
On Monday, April 24, Quist was endorsed by the Montana Sportsmen Alliance. The MSA is “comprised of Montana hunting, angling, and conservation minded individuals who are committed to insuring the effective representation of rank and file sportsmen in public policy matters.”
The organization issued a statement regarding the endorsement:
“MSA is non-partisan but there is NO doubt, Rob is indeed the sportsmen/women’s candidate!”
Voters will ultimately decide who best represents their Montana values in the special election May 25, 2017.