Amid the controversy surrounding a Trump administration official’s stance on selling public lands, a local nonprofit is partnering with a craft brewery to highlight the issue.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and Highlander Beer are teaming up on a new beer called Public Land Owner American Pale Ale.
Brewed and canned out of Missoula, where both BHA and Highlander are headquartered, 3% of proceeds from the beverage will go toward advancing BHA’s mission of “public lands conservation, access and fair chase.”
“With public lands, ownership belongs to everybody,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat or Independent, if you’re rich or you can barely keep food on the table. It doesn’t matter who your parents are, it belongs to all of us. That’s the idea.”
The organization’s main priority right now is advocating for Congress to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund with $900 million. The fund supports outdoor recreation and conservation projects nationwide.
“In particular, we’re working on Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) to step up on that,” Tawney explained.
Daines is a member of the Republican party, which controls the Senate, and he’s also on the Appropriations Committee. In a letter to committee colleagues, Daines asked for $600 million for the LWCF.
Tawney also said that President Donald Trump’s appointment of William Perry Pendley as acting head of the Bureau of Land Management is a major concern. Pendley has a history of advocating for the sale of public lands.
“An immediate threat is William Pendley ascending to the top of the BLM,” Tawney said. “The BLM manages 245 million acres, and there’s tons of it here in Montana. Some of my favorite is 20 minutes away up the Blackfoot River. It’s a place I recreate often with my family and it’s important to all Missoulians and Montanans.”
Tawney said Pendley is “someone who’s made a living and a career by espousing the sale of public lands.”
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“He wants to dismantle the very agency he now oversees,” Tawney explained. “For us, he needs to go, whether that happens with him being officially nominated and having a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which I don’t think he makes it through. We want to put pressure on him to make sure he steps down because of public pressure.”
Tawney said Daines is a “key person” on the issue.
“Sen. Daines has access to the White House,” Tawney said. “Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has come out in total opposition to Pendley.”
The beer is “light-bodied and easy drinking,” according to BHA spokesperson Kate McKalip. It is available in six-pack cans and on draft throughout Montana.
“This is one of the most exciting projects we’ve ever been involved in,” said Marc Pierce, one of the partners at Highlander. “BHA’s mission is important to us because it coincides with the values of our company and the people of Highlander. Many of us, and many of our customers, are BHA members or supportive of the mission, so when we got this opportunity it seemed like a perfect fit."
The beer is already available in stores like Town Pump and at local bars like The Rhino.
"We are thrilled to offer a beer that not only tastes great but also supports protecting public lands and waters, which is extremely important to us, our customers and many beer-drinking Montanans," Pierce continued.
The two organizations had a celebration party on Thursday at Highlander and recorded a podcast, which will be available at the BHA Podcast and Blast site online at backcountryhunters.org/bha_podcast?utm_campaign=highlander_launch&utm_medium=email&utm_source=backcountryhunters.
Host Hal Herring discussed the current state of public lands conservation with Tawney, Pierce and local businessman Todd Frank, who owns the three Trailhead outdoor gear stores in Missoula.
“The stoke level is high for the official release of Public Land Owner Pale Ale,” Tawney said. “We are thrilled to work with Highlander to make a beer for all public land owners. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, who your parents are, where you are from, what political party you belong to, public lands belong to all of us. Now we have a beer to celebrate our vast kingdom, and celebrate we will.”