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Gianforte says he'll work with Biden, lays out clashes

Gianforte says he'll work with Biden, lays out clashes

Gov. Greg Gianforte

Gov. Greg Gianforte speaks to members of the press in the Governor's Reception Room of the Montana state Capitol on Jan. 5.

Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte on Friday said he would work with Democratic President Joe Biden when their priorities aligned, but laid out two places he disagrees with the new administration.

"Unfortunately, many of the executive actions from President Biden in his two-day-old administration aren't in Montana's interests," Gianforte said in a press conference with reporters.

Biden issued an executive order Jan. 20 requiring the use of face coverings on federal property and lands, something Gianforte said didn't make sense for Montana.

"Why you'd need a mask on an National Forest is incomprehensible," Gianforte said. "It is the definition of social separation. I think it shows a lack of understanding of our way of life and we'll be communicating with the Biden administration."

Biden's order reads: “To protect the federal workforce and individuals interacting with the federal workforce, and to ensure the continuity of government services and activities, on-duty or on-site federal employees, on-site federal contractors, and other individuals in federal buildings and on federal lands should all wear masks."

It also gives heads of agencies the ability to make exemptions that require other safeguards such as distancing.

The Department of the Interior, which oversees the agencies that manage federal lands in Montana, said in a statement Thursday that Biden's order will help slow the spread of the virus and that it would issue more information about how the order would apply on lands soon.

"The Interior Department will have additional department-specific guidance in the days and weeks to come," the statement read.

During the same press conference, Gianforte reiterated that Montana is still under a statewide mask mandate and that he encourages everyone to wear a mask.

Gianforte's own directive requiring mask use in the state says "for any organized outdoor activity where social distancing is not possible or is not observed, a face covering that covers the mouth and nose shall be worn at all times"

Gianforte also cited Biden's executive order canceling the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, saying it's a "bad deal for Montana."

Both Democrats and Republicans in Montana have supported the pipeline, including Gianforte's predecessor, former Gov. Steve Bullock, who said in 2019 he was open to the pipeline "if it's done right."

Within the state, reaction was mixed to Biden's order, with organizations representing Native Americans whose drinking water would have been at risk from a pipeline leak and environmentalists praising the order. Yellowstone Public Radio reported county commissioners in the region were "disappointed."

Gianforte said the project had been "thoroughly vetted to meet safety and environmental standards" and that the pipeline would have created jobs.

"But now it's gone now because of the stroke of a pen," Gianforte said. " ... I will continue to urge the president to reverse his decision."

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State reporter

State Bureau reporter for Lee Newspapers of Montana.

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