Ryan Zinke is a critical threat to Montana’s public lands

Ajock Conyngham
Wednesday, September 29, 2021

When someone who rigs his fly rod backwards promises you that he supports our public lands, think twice. I choked on my coffee when I saw Ryan Zinke’s campaign piece lying about his record on public lands in saying he “led the charge against the sale or transfer of public lands”. The truth is that Zinke has through his statements, actions, votes and policies joined the assault on America’s public lands and the strong drive to transfer or sell the lands that support out hunting, fishing, and outdoor culture.

Zinke seems to think that Montanans will forget his support for multiple public land giveaways in his checkered political past. Well, we haven’t.

Here are a few highlights from Zinke’s real record on public lands:

— As a Montana state senator, Zinke signed a pledge showing his support for transferring public lands to the states, leading inevitably to the sale of Montana’s public lands to private interests.

— On Zinke’s first day in Congress, he voted to change House rules to make it easier to transfer federal public lands to the highest bidder.

— At the Interior Department, Zinke oversaw the Administration’s largest reduction of public lands ever by shrinking the Bears Ears National Monument & Grand Staircase Escalante by nearly 2 million acres. The management plans also included selling off hundreds of acres while prioritizing oil and gas development.

Time and time again, his cozy relationship with oil and gas has come at the expense of our public lands. When given the choice, he always throws our public lands under the bus. He is currently under investigation for a sweetheart real estate deal backed by the chairman of Halliburton, America’s largest oil-services company – all ironed out while he was at the helm of the Interior Department. Ethics experts call this a classic conflict of interest: the one benefiting financially from an energy company also regulates that industry on behalf of the American people.

And let’s not even get into how he proposed doubling National Park entrance fees (while he faced ethics investigations for spending more than $12,000 on a private jet flight from Las Vegas to Whitefish).

Zinke has long branded himself as a “Teddy Roosevelt” Republican—false advertising. Teddy Roosevelt’s great-grandson publicly rebuked this claim. Whether it’s the altitude of flying high on taxpayer dollars or the odor of the swamp, Zinke seems to be in a fog that makes him forget that Montanans have a long memory when it comes to our public lands. Make no mistake: Zinke has a consistent record of supporting federal transfer of public lands and supporting their sale to private interests. His fly rod is rigged wrong once again.

(Jock Conyngham of Evaro is board chair of Montana Conservation Voters.)

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