On April 11, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm David Bernhardt, nominated to take the helm at the Department of Interior following the departure of Ryan Zinke. Our own U.S. senators split on that vote, contributing to the ongoing challenges that surround decisions about protecting our outdoor assets.

As a business that survives on the health and vitality of our outdoors, we can only hope that our leaders in Congress work to stand up against people and policies that harm our outdoor recreation industry. Facing the tough position of standing up against those who support policies so clearly at odds with Montana’s outdoor economy is no small task – and holding people in leadership accountable for their track record should be commended, not discouraged.

Mr. Bernhardt comes to his new position with a host of conflicts, not the least of which is what shaped his priorities, and how those priorities find their way into our communities, or not. While serving as acting Interior secretary, Mr. Bernhardt championed troubling policies and pushed agendas detrimental to Montana’s outdoor economy. Specifically, he supported a budget that would gut funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The president’s proposed 2020 budget cuts LWCF funding by 105%, meaning that it would essentially zero out appropriations for a program that has enjoyed bipartisan support nationwide, and among Montana’s entire Congressional delegation.

LWCF is heralded as the backbone of our nation’s conservation polices, with a proven track record of improving outdoor access, investing in our public lands, and elevating community recreation opportunities without costing taxpayers a dime. It has been fervently defended by our senators and congressman, with both Sen. Tester and Sen. Daines fighting for the reauthorization bill that passed last month, and who both are signed as co-sponsors to the funding bill that is ultimately necessary to keep the program working.

LWCF is crucial to Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy that supports more than 71,000 jobs. In the more than half a century of its existence, LWCF has contributed over $587 billion in Montana projects. This is why it is difficult to make sense of Sen. Daines’ vote to support the nomination of Mr. Bernhardt to lead our Department of Interior. It is hard to understand how you can both champion a cause, and also champion the person who shows that the cause is not a priority.

Mr. Bernhardt also served at Interior while the agency worked to decrease and remove protections on 26 national monuments across the country; a move that degraded nationally protected public lands and set a dangerous precedent of leaving the public out of public lands management decisions, effectively harming the communities and livelihoods built around them.

These concerns are hard for Montanans to ignore. Sen. Daines’ support for Bernhardt’s nomination is even more troubling in light of all of the work that both he and Sen. Tester put in publicly, supporting and fighting for reauthorization of LWCF. This nomination hearing gave our members of the Senate the opportunity to stand up for the economic value of our outdoor assets. Unfortunately, only one of those votes makes sense.

Given Mr. Bernhardt’s stance on supporting a budget that strips LWCF funding, and given his position of putting public lands at the bottom of the priority list, it is troubling that this nomination could be supported. When given an opportunity to stand up for the voices of Montanans, Sen. Daines supported a nominee that brings questionable conflicts to his new role that will surely come into play for Montana values here at home. We can only hope that as the new head of Interior takes his position of leadership, that the Montana voices are heard, and not ignored. The protection and preservation of Montana’s outdoor recreation economy is critical for Montana jobs today, and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Ken and Susi Sinay are with Yellowstone Safari Company, based in Bozeman.