Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, is seeking public comment on draft legislation posted on his website to exchange approximately 625 square feet of land between the Whitefish Mountain Resort and the Federal Government. Under Rehberg's draft legislation, the Secretary of Agriculture would convey the land currently used for an historically significant World War II statue of Jesus on Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana. In exchange, the Resort would provide the same amount of land to the Federal Government.
"Fortunately, the public outcry in Montana and around the country bought us some time," said Rehberg who thanked the Forest Service for agreeing to his request to delay the decision to forcibly remove the statue. "I certainly hope the Forest Service will respect the wishes of just about everyone in the local community, but if they decide to fold to out-of-state lawyers, it's important to have an Ace in the Hole. That's what this bill is about -- it's a common sense solution that we can use if other avenues don't work."
The World War II Memorial statue of Jesus on Big Mountain has been located there for nearly 60 years. Recently it has become the subject of controversy after a Wisconsin based organization objected to a special use permit renewal on the 25' by 25' parcel of U.S. Forest Service land. The Forest Service has delayed the decision and agreed to open the issue to public comment.
Rehberg, who is known for bringing common-sense Made-In-Montana ideas to Congress, credits the idea for the land swap to a radio interview with John Hendricks at KGEZ in Kalispell. During that interview, Hendricks suggested simply giving the land to the Knights of Columbus.
Rehberg took that idea and ran with it, working closely with Whitefish Mountain Resort President Dan Graves. They determined a simple land trade would be the best way to move forward and had legislation drafted. Rehberg has posted his bill online for public comment prior to introduction, as early as next week.
"We are honored to be able to help preserve this wonderful piece of history on Big Mountains at Whitefish Mountain Resort in honor of our veterans," said Graves.