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Daines Outdoors Issue

U.S. Rep. Steve Daines addresses a National Day of Prayer ceremony Thursday, May 2, 2013, in Helena, Mont. Daines is mostly highlighting outdoors issues during a week-long statewide tour. (AP Photo/Matt Gouras)

HELENA – U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, amid a statewide tour looking at outdoors issues, continued his push Thursday to expand logging and said the recent debate on background checks has not altered his opposition to gun control.

Daines, a Republican, said during an interview that he remains certain that Montanans are strongly opposed to any new gun control plans, such as last month’s failed proposal in the Senate to expand background checks. Daines was at the state Capitol on Thursday to participate in a National Day of Prayer ceremony.

The congressman is scheduled over the next week to visit sporting goods stores, firearm manufacturers, interest groups and others as he focuses on outdoors issues.

But he said gun rights remain the top concern from constituents. And he said it is obvious in mail and phone calls to his office that Montanans are overwhelmingly opposed to the background check expansion, which has not reached the House.

Supporters of the gun control measure have been bashing U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., for voting against the bill, arguing that state residents would have supported the Washington, D.C., compromise.

“We have not found that to be the case,” Daines said.

He said another big issue will be finding ways to increase logging on federal land – an elusive goal that has vexed many Western lawmakers since the 1980s.

Daines said he is talking to U.S. Sen. Jon Tester about the Democrat’s plan to both mandate more logging on federal land and expand wilderness in Montana. Daines, who has not yet taken a position on the measure, indicated changes are needed.

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He described Tester’s proposal as “on the right path.”

“I am spending time making sure I hear from all constituent groups in Montana. There is not consensus on this,” Daines said.

Daines said he would like to see the state have more control over the management of federal land because more logging is needed. He is working on an idea for a pilot project that would let the state manage some federal land, similar to the way the state implements some other federal programs.

He is also still evaluating the proposal from Baucus to expand land conservation along the Rock Mountain Front. Daines said he found both strong support and strong opposition for the idea.

Daines noted he has joined Baucus to back protections for the North Fork Flathead River watershed in northwest Montana along the Canadian border.

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