Montana Senator Thinks Millionaires Are Ruining the State

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: Jun 11, 2024

During the first debate of the Montana senate race, sitting Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) slapped his Republican opponent with harsh claims of ruing the state.

During the most contested race of 2024, Tester said, “Montana’s values are on the line” in November and that Tim Sheehy is a threat to public lands and way of life in The Treasure State.

Tester Is Concerned That Millionaires Are Making Life Worse in Montana

During Sunday’s contentious debate, Tester brought several pointed attacks on his appointment and how the Republican could alter life in Montana for regular people.

A view of a large field with tall snow capped mountains in the background

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The Montana Senator began his debate by bringing up issues of new residents buying large plots of land and changing the status quo. “The bottom line is Montana is changing. We’re seeing a lot of folks come into the state — rich folks — who want to try to buy our state, to try to change it into something it’s not. Unfortunately, many of these folks are coming in, they’re buying big ranches. They’re locking people off of not only that ranch, but the public lands around it. And that’s not what Montana is about,” said Tester.

The State Currently Suffers From a Housing Crisis

One of the main issues with new wealth moving into the state is the housing and affordability crisis. The state offers plenty in terms of natural resources, but spread-apart communities and small downtown areas often result in sky-high property values and little opportunity for affordable housing.

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Tester shared his concerns that coastal millionaires are moving to the state in droves and buying two or three houses at a time. A similar issue occurred in Austin when California tech workers overinflated the housing market by snapping up houses in a hurry with overpriced offers.

Tester Accused Sheehy of Being Part of the Elite Exacerbating Problems

The criticism of Tim Sheehy revolves around his status as a millionaire. State officials worry that with Sheehy at the helm, the affordability crisis will only worsen.

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Turning Montana into the next millionaire playground will not benefit regular people. Often, when elites move in, ranchers, farmers, and generational families lose the ability to afford their land.

Who Is Tim Sheehy?

Sheehy is identified as a pro-Donal Trump conservative and a decorated ex-navy SEAL.

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Source: @SheehyforMT/X

He moved his family to Montana in 2014 and built a financially successful aerial firefighting company that brings in roughly $7 million annually. He owns several multimillion-dollar properties in the state, including a home in a lavish resort on Flathead Lake and 7,000 acres in Martinsdale.

Sheehy Worked Diligently To Bring Elite Hunting to the State

One of Sheehy’s businesses is the Little Belt Cattle Company which offers exclusive hunting experiences on roughly 30,000 acres of private and leased land.

A man holds a large gun with a sight up to his eye while wearing brown hunting clothing. He stands in tall grass next to a body of water

Source: Jordan Bergendahl/Canva

The cattle ranch chose not to participate in a state program that allows free public hunting. Although now deleted, the Little Belt website previously touted itself as a “premier destination for hunters” with “private access to over 500,000 acres of National Forest.” A five-person archery hunt costs roughly $12,500 for five days through Sheehy’s organization.


Democrats Are Concerned With Keeping Montana Affordable

One of the key issues on the docket for Montana Democrats is keeping public land accessible and affordable for residents and visitors.

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“If you want a Montana that continues to be a place where people can continue to hunt and fish without being millionaires, this election is really important,” Tester said during Sunday’s debate.


Public Lands Are a Contentious Issue

During the debate, both candidates touched on their opinions of public lands. Although Montana has some of the most beautiful National Parks in the country, locals remain hesitant to let in outsiders.

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Both candidates agreed that Montanans must embrace tourism as part of their way of life but disagreed on how best to keep it accessible. While Sheehy leans towards private land with ultra-expensive pay-to-pay packages, Tester thinks land should remain public.


Sheehy Embraced Harmful Views of Public Lands

In the past, Sheehy has embraced exclusive hunting packages for profit and other toxic views of public lands.

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The businessman advocated for federal lands to be “turned over” to state officials. Federal land ownership ensures that spaces are free and accessible to everyone; once states take control, they can sell it off for profit or lock it up for private use. Many Western voters oppose this position.


Local Landlords Could Be in Control of Public Land

During a radio show in October, Sheehy said, “Local control has to be returned. Whether that means, you know, some of these public lands get turned over to state agencies, or even counties, or whether those decisions are made by a local landlord instead of by, you know, federal fiat a few thousand miles away.”

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The comments drew a loud outcry of criticism, and his team has been performing damage control since. Turning free and accessible public areas over to landlords and for-profit companies sits very poorly with the generations of ranchers in the state.


The Republican Attempts To Blame Environmentalists for Issues in the State

In a bid to smooth out his rocky appearance with voters, Sheehy claims that he’s always been a champion of public lands and that it is environmentalists who are the real threat to the state.

A firefighter battling a wildfire in California in 2007.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Through his position as CEO of the for-profit aerial firefighting company, he claims, “We have lawsuits stopping any potential timber development, controlled burns or basic public access projects because they will be injuncted. There will be lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit.”


Public Lands Have Been a Key Issue for Decades

The debate around public lands has been a key issue in Montana elections for decades.

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Tester maintains his position that Sheehy will threaten the way of life that Montanans have been enjoying for generations and warns that if unchecked, his opponent will turn the state into the next millionaire playground.