Perhaps realizing that going to Fox News and screaming “Benghazi” every few days might not win over the average voter in Montana, Congressman Zinke has spent the past few months trying to rehabilitate his record on public lands. He’s proposed legislation that won’t go anywhere in the last few months of the session, just in time for the election, and tried to fight off the perception that he’s supportive of federal land transfers and sales. Unfortunately, he also has a voting record, one that the National Parks Action Fund released this week. It shows a member of Congress, who despite calling himself a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican,” has voted repeatedly against protecting our national parks from pollution, against protecting endangered species, and against increasing protections for the precious national resources that make our parks so valuable and so loved.
Zinke scored a 9% vote from the Action Fund, an affiliate of the nation’s leading advocacy group for national parks, the National Parks Conservation Association. His score, coincidentally, was the same score received by Utah’s Rob Bishop, the leading voice to privatize federal lands.
In two particularly egregious votes, Zinke actually voted to allow increased mining runoff in streams and rivers that border and run through national parks. This is an especially important vote for Montanans, as Zinke, unlike even Steve Daines, has supported drilling on the North Fork of the Flathead, right next to Glacier National Park. He offered up a little election year pandering for the people near Yellowstone, but someone who would jeopardize the clean water that flows near Glacier simply cannot be trusted, and his votes to allow increased runoff from mines show a candidate more interested in getting campaign donations than in protecting our parks.
Zinke also twice voted against Roosevelt’s signature effort to protect public lands, the Antiquities Act. As the report notes, the Antiquities Act has been used by sixteen presidents in both parties to protect “irreplaceable national treasures” across the country. You simply can’t be a Teddy Roosevelt Republican when you oppose the legislation he championed to create America’s national parks, preserves, and monuments—and you certainly can’t be one when you want to allow mine runoff to pollute those irreplaceable parts of our nation.
As the Center for American Progress noted back in April, Congressman Zinke is a member of the supporting cast for the anti-parks caucus in Congress, a group “responsible for espousing anti-parks rhetoric and introducing legislation aimed at weakening protections of lands that are owned by all Americans and important to a majority of Americans.” They have worked to undermine the very idea of protecting lands for future generations and want to open some of those lands to dangerous, damaging mining and drilling. And Congressman Zinke had aided and abetted their efforts to plunder our shared lands.
As is so often the case, Congressman Zinke has had a difficult choice: this time, whether to support Montanans and the parks they love or to appease the TEA Party fringe and irresponsible mineral extraction outfits that want to jeopardize places like Glacier all over the country. As he so often has failed to do, he didn’t pick us.