Ryan Zinke Flip Flops on Public Lands. On One Day

While I was off enjoying some of our majestic public lands on a quick trip down to Grand Teton National Park, it seems our Congressman decided to make some news by staking out two almost diametrically opposed positions on the ownership of public lands. That Congressman Zinke made this flip flop is hardly news, as his entire political career is a series of reversals, twists, and McTwists that would shame Tony Hawk, but this was an especially egregious display, as Zinke managed to execute the reverse on the same day.

If a Montanan had happened by Zinke’s personal vanity page at the US House web site Wednesday, she would have been greeted with this giant headline: “Zinke does it again: Bucks party leaders and votes NO on transferring ownership of public lands” leading a story about his vote in a committee against a proposal to allow two million acres of federal land to be transferred to the states. The press release doesn’t see fit to mention why Zinke, who believes he is one of the most influential members of the House, couldn’t persuade his GOP colleagues to vote with him, but the vote was the right one. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, Zinke made a far worse vote in the House Natural Resources Committee, when he supported HR 2316, which would allow the transfer of millions of acres of federally-managed, public lands to the control of committees run by logging and mining interests and county commissioners, like some of the ones in Montana who support the public lands transfer movement wholesale. As the Montana Wilderness Association notes:

This would undoubtedly open up millions of acres of national forest lands – including our favorite places to hike, hunt, fish, and camp – to unfettered resource extraction.
The advisory committees would have complete control in deciding how to manage public lands within the so-called “community forest demonstration areas.” This would undermine bedrock environmental laws, including the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, and give extractive industry exclusive control of our national forests. This unprecedented approach to transferring and industrializing public lands would lead to the loss of clean water, wildlife habitat, and recreational use of public lands that are owned by all Americans.

In our post-factual political world, Zinke may be the ideal candidate for public office. It takes a special degree of shamelessness to brag about opposing a smaller transfer of public lands the very same day you vote to create a more serious threat to even more of the land that we use for recreation and spiritual renewal.

Perhaps the only true thing here is that Zinke did “do it again.” Whether it’s abortion rights, climate change, gun rights, Supreme Court nominees, energy policy, public lands, or anything else, there’s only one issue that Ryan Zinke has remained constant on: the promotion of Ryan Zinke, truth, and the needs of his constituents be damned.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • Everyone knows that the deputy director of the Montana Wilderness Association is married to the campaign manger of Denise Juneau, right? And that the new head of Montana Conservation Voters was a former lobbyist for the Montana Wilderness Association? Or that the current head of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers ran a ‘dark money’ outfit that dishonestly and unethically ran TV ads supporting libertarian candidate Cox to help Tester defeat Rehberg? (See: http://bit.ly/1atheOQ)

    And everyone remembers that basically the same criticism that Montana Wilderness Association et al are raising here (and I agree with much of it) was also levied against the Montana Wilderness Association, et al and Senator Tester for Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act bill, which would’ve for the 1st time in U.S. history let politicians simply mandate a level of logging on National Forests, right?

    For example, the 2009 version of Tester’s logging bill completely “undermined bedrock environmental laws” by limiting NEPA analysis to 12 months no matter what the circumstances were, including endangered species considerations. For a more detailed analysis of Tester’s bill circa 2009 see: http://bit.ly/28MKdrP

    SNIP: “The FJRA is not a budget-neutral bill. It authorizes practically unlimited expenditures from the U.S. Treasury and other sources, and empowers ‘Resource Advisory Committees’ or ‘Local Collaboration Groups’ to spend federal funds, including on private, non-National Forest System lands. This provision and others in the FJRA give the ‘Resource Advisory Committees’ or ‘Local Collaboration Groups’ sweeping powers that could effectively, if not officially, usurp management and budgetary authority from the Forest Service and grant it to private interests. Professional staff from the Forest Service will be replaced with citizen committees whose members are mandated to include industry groups.”

    Here’s were more detailed, substantive concerns with the Tester/MWA public lands logging bill and how it would’ve undermined NEPA, balkanized America’s National Forest system and weakened Wilderness protections: http://bit.ly/1tBKb61

    Of course, the Montana Wilderness Association and Senator Tester basically just choose to completely ignore the substantive criticism coming from many Wilderness and public lands advocates from Montana and around the country, including nearly 50 organizations (See: http://bit.ly/1OvKfO7)and decided to go “all in” with their “timber partners,” who now fully support politicians like Senator Daines, Rep Ryan Zinke and have even endorsed Greg Gianforte for governor.

    Looks to me like Montana Wilderness Association is wrapped around the ‘collaboration’ logging axel on this one. Or, said another way, MWA has the tiger by the tail…and Just. Can’t. Let. Go.

    While many of us certainly appreciate MWA raising concerns with a bill that Zinke supported in Committee, MWA and their public lands logging ‘collaborators’ in the Montana conservation community better look in the mirror, have a long, hard look and ponder the long-term, negative consequences to America’s public lands legacy from their own actions and policy positions.

    • Wow, Don, did you even read past the first sentence that I wrote? You have no other comment on anything else? Perhaps I’m the only person in Montana who has noticed some rather interesting coincidence (certainly not ‘coordination’ right?) between the Montana Wilderness Association and Juneau’s campaign, and also Bullock’s campaign, for that matter.

      Anyway, since you asked, my spouse was a public lands and Wilderness activist for about 20 years then got involved in software and technology for non-profits. Ironically, she used to work for Salsa Labs, which I believe MWA uses for their action alerts.

      If you have any other comments or questions about the rest of the substance in my comment as it relates to public lands management, please don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks.

      • I don’t have any comment about the “substance” of your comment, Matt, as it’s the same comment you have posted here and elsewhere for years.

        I read the exact same thing in the Billings Gazette comment section today. I believe we once talked about how this behavior is spamming, and I’d like you to stop, please, at least at my site.

        The reason I asked about your snide opening is simple. It’s inappropriate. You have no evidence of this coordination and it’s little more than a cheap personal shot. It’s just kind of pathetic.

        I believe that a husband and wife can be independent and professional. It’s sad to think that you’re willing to suggest they can’t to score some cheap points in your copy-paste crusade.

  • See this? http://forestpolicypub.com/2016/06/22/6-months-after-buying-plum-creek-weyerhaeuser-to-close-two-mills-in-montana/

    So far – and so very predictable – all the newspaper stories on Weyerhaeuser’s pending mill closures feature Montana’s entire Congressional delegation, Gov Bullock and even Denise Juneau singing the same exact tune: We need more National Forest logging and blaming the pending mill closures in Columbia Falls on a the federal government.

    In fact, the statements from Gov Bullock and Juneau give fodder to the whole federal public lands transfer movement.

    But you know what? I called the lead timber sale planner for both the Flathead National Forest and the Kootenai National Forest this morning. According to the U.S. Forest Service Weyhaeuser has bid on zero timber sales on either of these National Forests.

    Furthermore, for the past two years the National Forests in Montana and north Idaho meet their logging targets based on the budget Congress gave them.

    Also, for the past two years in Montana the U.S. Forest Service could do an unlimited number of 3,000 acres timber sales on 5 million acres of National Forest land in Montana. These timber sales would be “categorically excluded from the requirements of NEPA” and there would be no opportunity for the public to object, or appeal, these timber sales.

    But, hey, when a mega corporation gobbles up slightly less-mega corporation and chops jobs to increase profits the only rationale thing to do is to blame a handful of “activists” and “fringe environmentalists.”

    Get the full story and additional context – including all the global economic realities at play here – at the link above. Thanks.

  • Matthew, With USA lumber prices temporarily up, how much Canadian timber is imported to Montana mills, and are there any lists/studies of Monana stumpage fees/costs, compared to BC low stumpage fees?
    Seems like that is kind of important, and related to new softwood trade deal with Canada.
    Like in the past, will it too have a safety net for Canada. Where if USA lumber prices fall, Canada can extend more incentives, subsidies and stumpage fee cuts to maintain harvest volume on Queen’s Land.
    In other words, could be that over 10% of Montana mill volume, maybe 20%, comes from, and will continue to come from Canada, even if present short term high USA lumber price falls and regresses back to trendlines.
    I’m interested in what Montana mills are looking at for the next five or ten years.


  • Here’s some more information about public National Forest logging in northwest Montana that was uncovered when the Missoulian interviewed the Forest Supervisor of the Kootenai National Forest.

    Here’s a link to the Missoulian article: http://bit.ly/28QDgy7

    And here’s a snip:

    “Chip Weber, supervisor of the Flathead National Forest, and Chris Savage, supervisor of the Kootenai National Forest, confirmed [what Koehler said] Thursday.

    Weber noted there have only been two smaller timber sales offered in the Flathead since Weyerhaeuser absorbed Plum Creek this spring. Savage said neither Plum Creek nor Weyerhaeuser have bid on sales in the Kootenai National Forest since approximately 2007. He estimated 300 million to 400 million board feet of timber have been sold in that time.”

    So, let’s look at this more closely. While Zinke, Daines, Tester, Bullock and Juneau all blamed the decision by the $25 billion mega corporation Weyerhaeuser (a company that owns 880,000 acres of private land in Montana and owns/controls 13 million acres of timber land in total) to close the two mills in Columbia Falls and an administrative office on the federal government and lack of logging on National Forests…with Zinke specifically blaming ‘activists’ and Daines singling out “fringe environmentalists”…..

    Apparently neither Plum Creek nor Weyerhaeuser had bid on ANY timber sales on the Kootenai National Forest since about 2007, even though the Kootenai sold up to 400 MILLION board feet of trees in the past 9 years.

    Just so people can help visualize what that much logging would look like, it would take approximately 80,000 log trucks full of trees, lined up end-to-end for 685 miles, to transport 400 million board feet of timber.

    And remember, this is JUST the amount of timber that ONE National Forest has sold in the past 9 years!

    RE: Lumber prices being temporarily up. I’m not sure that’s really the case Bob. And remember, the U.S. is still building only 1/2 of the new homes compared to the number of homes that were being built pre-housing bubble bursting. It’s something like 500,000 less new homes built in the U.S. per year for the past 6 years or so. That’s a [email protected] ton of lumber demand that’s no longer out there.

  • Ho fatto vedere la foto a mia figlia, grande mangiatrice di "chicken nuggets", e lei mi ha risposto: "Embè? E quando mangio i pesciolini fritti, gli tolgo gli occhi, le budella e le lieqte?&cuot;Dstho ciò, noto una cosa nella foto: sulla destra si intravede una scatola piena della stessa poltiglia, mentre quella in primo piano viene versata in un coperchio… come mai?

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