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Public Lands Democrat Wants Zinke’s Seat

It looks like the field of Democrats running for Congress is going to keep growing. Today, John Meyer, an attorney in Bozeman announced he would seek to fill the seat soon to be vacated by Ryan Zinke. He joins Casey Schreiner, Kelly McCarthy, Amanda Curtis, and Rob Quist.

I, for one, applaud this effort. We need as many candidates as possible in this race, talking to Montanans and talking about the future of our state, and talking ideas. We need a clear understanding of where these candidates stand on the issues. Policy matters.

John stresses the importance of public lands and states he will be at the Women’s March in Helena tomorrow as well as the Public Lands Rally in Helena on January 30th.

An unedited press release that John sent me is posted below. ———————-

Bozeman attorney John Meyer has notified the Montana Democratic Party that he would like to run for the seat that Ryan Zinke is vacating in the House of Representatives. Meyer cites his extensive experience with public lands as a factor that makes him uniquely qualified to represent Montana in Congress. “When I am not recreating on public lands, I am working in the federal court system to protect Montana’s public lands.” Meyer is a bow hunter, mountain biker, climber and backcountry skier.

Meyer moved to Missoula in 1999 to attend the University of Montana. While there, he and a few friends started Students for Economic and Social Justice, a group that has been credited with getting the University to cut its contract with a clothing manufacturer over concerns that UM clothing was being manufactured in sweatshops overseas.

Meyer received a degree in Biology and Spanish in 2003 from UM before working as a biological technician for the Flathead National Forest.

In 2009, Meyer graduated with honors from Vermont Law School, which is widely acclaimed for its natural resources program. Meyer started Cottonwood Environmental Law Center in Bozeman immediately after graduating. In 2011, Meyer and his law school mentor and Montana lawyer Jack Tuholske represented the Billings-based Northern Plains Resource council on a lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that invalidated the construction permit for a $550 million railroad that had been approved in southeast Montana. The railroad would have taken ranchers’ land by eminent domain. The court decision lists twelve attorneys representing the federal government and railroad company. “There were two of us. That case made me realize how powerful the law can be.”

Since that time, Meyer has been using the law in an effort to open up new federal land to the public along the Continental Divide. The Federal Government runs a domestic sheep research station that covers over 16,000 acres of high elevation land that is closed to the public. Meyer’s Cottonwood Environmental Law Center has been suing the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station to open up the land for years. “Our goal is to open up the federal land along the Continental Divide Trail to hunting, hiking and camping.” The current head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has tried to relocate the Sheep Station to another research facility in Nebraska on two separate occasions, but U.S. Senator Steve Daines has responded with appropriations riders that keep the area closed to the public. After Meyer’s organization won the second lawsuit, Commissioners for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks sent Senator Daines a letter asking him to allow the public to access the federal land. Meyer has also received internal emails from a Freedom of Information Act request in which the lead scientist at the Sheep Station says grazing in the 16,000 acres of land is not necessary.

The Sheep Station has agreed not to graze sheep in the area until it completes an environmental impact statement, but the area is still closed to hunters and hikers. “My organization will continue to file lawsuits and I will work in Congress to open up this area to the public.“

Meyer attributes his affinity for public lands to a childhood of playing in the woods. “I spent my time outside building tree houses and catching crayfish, bull frogs and snapping turtles. My parents would tell me to be home when the streetlight came on, so my best friend and I would take turns karate-kicking the light post until it went out. Then we’d have fifteen more minutes to go run back into the woods and continue construction on our latest three story tree house.”

After law school, Meyer moved into a yurt south of Bozeman to save money and live closer to the land. “Living without running water or electricity in southwest Montana can be tough during the winter.” All told, Meyer says that he lived in his yurt for more than five years. “It was a character building experience.”

Meyer believes that the frugality he learned by starting his own business can be applied to the federal government: “I’ll propose legislation that eliminates the exorbitant retirement package for Congress people. We’ll make precedent by starting with Montana’s House seat. What Montanan is against saving taxpayer money by cutting extravagant benefits to Congress people?”

“Public lands can also be run like a business,” according to Meyer. “If we are on a budget, we need to start charging market value to graze on public lands. Why does it cost more than $20 to run a cow and a calf for a month on private land but less than $2 to run the same pair on public land? It makes no economic sense.”

Privatizing public lands is a non-starter for Meyer. “Our public lands are a huge economic driver for the state. Montanans are starting to realize that Representative Zinke probably does not understand that because he lives in California.” Meyer believes that it is appropriate for Zinke to vacate the seat— “Montanans don’t want to be represented by an out of touch Californian.”

“I’d like to work with Governor Bullock to start a renewable energy revolution in Montana. It used to be that all energy that was created in Montana stayed in Montana. Then former Governor Judy Martz put Montana energy on the free market and everyone’s electricity prices went up. We should re-regulate Montana’s energy market once again and remove the stockholders of Northwestern Energy from the equation to promote net metering in Montana. We can create new manufacturing and installation jobs. The University of Montana and Montana State University will become the center of renewable energy research and technology.”

Meyer said he would also “like to work with Senator Tester to prevent multinational corporations like Bayer and Monsanto from compromising the economic and historical fabric of Montana’s farm land.” “It all starts with our food and I’ll work hard to get the morally bankrupt billionaire corporations out of Montana.”

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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Nathan Kosted


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  • Nathan, you keep moving the ball forward!
    John Meyer sounds like a very intentional person. As are the other Democrats wanting to be evaluated by we the people also the D Party.
    How about a festive crowd funded meet the candidates get together, say in Billings.
    We got to get ahead of the
    Mt. D Party.

  • Hi Nathan. Thanks so much for providing so many details about John Meyer, including posting Meyer’s press release. One of Meyer’s recent successful lawsuits drew the ire of Tester, Daines, Zinke, the Montana Wood Products Association and some (Trump Jr-funded) ‘sportsmen’s’ groups.

    Here’s an OpEd Meyer wrote about that:


    “Federal courts have begun to stop timber sales in Montana because the Forest Service has not consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine how its region-wide management plan impacts critical habitat for Canada lynx. In response to the court injunctions, U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester recently introduced legislation that would deform the Endangered Species Act by removing the consultation requirement.

    The senators issued a press release last week calling their legislation a “common-sense” approach that benefits sportsmen. Groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation joined in and praised the senators for their attempt to cut out what federal judges call the “heart” of the Endangered Species Act.

    The misguided legislation does not benefit sportsmen. I bowhunt in one of timber sales that has been stopped because of critical habitat for Canada lynx. A few years ago I called a large bull elk into thick timber that was slated for logging. I could feel my heart pounding in my head as I pulled the bowstring back and waited for the elk to step out of the trees. If the timber had been logged, I would have never had the experience.

    The misguided legislation also brushes aside the fact that the Montana Federal court, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court all sided with Cottonwood Environmental Law Center instead of the Forest Service.”

    Here’s another article, which contains some more additional information about John Meyer and his work to protect public lands, wildlife and the rule of law. Again, I greatly appreciate you highlighting these issues on this blog.

    Here are some snips from the second article:

    “It was a huge disappointment to see that Tester is willing to sacrifice the Endangered Species Act again for political purposes,” said John Meyer, director of the Cottonwood Environmental Law Center in Bozeman that won the original lawsuit. “Rep. Zinke said he would consider running against Tester if Tester didn’t do what he wanted. It seems like Zinke is trying to play politics with the Endangered Species Act and Tester is willing to go along with that to stay in office.”…

    “The Forest Service has informed the court that they have started consultation with FWS and it will be completed this winter,” said Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Congress needs to let the Endangered Species Act work. We can have both logging and lynx as long as the logging is done properly.”

    “The Endangered Species Act is very clear that if there is a conflict the Lynx must prevail,” Garrity added. “Courts can’t make law they can only enforce the law.”

  • Are you actually kidding??? Is this the Onion?? That guy John Meyer was the most incoherent train wreck of a speaker I’ve ever heard in my entire life… Honestly what are you thinking? It was embarrassing to the 200+ people with children standing there stuck torturedby his incoherent ramblings all while dropping the f-bomb a half dozen times in front of a few dozen children.

    I swear to god I think that poor man has a few concussions that need healing. I could not let him govern an ant farm no less a state.

    Bad idea. Unless of course you want the Democrats to lose to G-money…

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