Former congressional candidate sues Montana Governor, top officials, over logging plan; claims they violated state constitution by nominating 5.1 million acres of US Forest Service land for logging without giving public a chance to participate

HELENA, Montana , April 29, 2014 (press release) – A Bozeman man on Tuesday sued Gov. Steve Bullock and some top administration officials, accusing them of violating the state constitution by nominating 5.1 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land for logging without giving the public a chance to participate.

Steve Kelly, a Bozeman artist and former congressional candidate, filed the complaint in the Gallatin County District Court. He also named Bullock's natural resources adviser Tim Baker, state Natural Resources and Conservation Director John Tubbs and state forester Bob Harrington in the lawsuit.

He contended that Bullock and the other officials violated the public's right to know and the public's right to participate in the Montana Constitution.

Kelly asked the court to set aside Bullock's recommendation and declare it void.

He also asked the court to send the recommendations back to Bullock and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and order officials to conduct properly noticed public meetings in accordance with constitutional and statutory open-government provisions and allow for public participation.

The complaint is aimed at the Bullock administration's recommendation to nominate 5.1 million acres of national forest land in Montana for expedited logging under the new Farm Bill as part of a restoration process.

In a press release, Kelly said Bullock's recommendation to the U.S. secretary of Agriculture "was hatched by seven people over the course of five conference calls that deliberately avoided any opportunity for public input."

"I love Montana," Kelly said in a press release. "I have a responsibility to vigorously defend the rights of citizens protected by the Montana Constitution. When government officials forget to follow their oath of office, or simply choose to act in a way that tramples the constitutional rights of all Montanans, individual citizens must be vigilant. It's what citizenship is all about."

Kelly, who is an artist, not an attorney, filed the complaint himself in what's known as a pro-se complaint.

"I just didn't want the clock to run out and get by without a challenge," he said in an interview. "I'm a citizen filing a pro-se complaint. I just want to know if the constitution is still working."

The Bullock administration will have a comment later.

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