The issue of transferring or privatizing public lands is a great example of why we need more leadership and less politics. By using the tragic and emotionally charged circumstances in Nevada, it would seem that proposing to take over federal lands is yet another ploy to gain attention rather than doing what three generations of Montanans have taught me: Look at the facts and fix the problem. Montanans need to see past the rhetoric and look at the facts.
The fact is most Montana ranchers would be opposed to this transfer. Grazing rates on state land in Montana are about 10 times higher than those of the federal government and the difference will be taken right out of the pockets of hard-working Montana ranching families. That’s a cold, hard fact. Our political leaders should protect the livelihood of working families, not hurt them.
Montana could also be liable for huge costs in wildfire suppression and small timber and farming communities could lose critical funding. Payments in lieu of taxes funding of
$26 million would be lost by Montana counties, which in essence forces them to raise taxes. Sportsmen could lose access to public lands for hunting and fishing, especially if Montana was forced to sell lands just to pay the cost of fighting massive forest fires and the increased cost of road maintenance.
At the very least, my MBA in finance and 23 years of Navy SEAL experience has taught me to look at all the facts, analyze the costs and benefits, and fully understand the consequences of action before making a decision to go to battle. That’s more leadership, less politics.
Does Montana do a better job of managing its lands? Certainly. Can the federal government do a better job of managing its lands? Absolutely. A reasoned approach would be to identify and change the rules that don’t make sense and ensure that decisions support Montana families rather than East Coast ideas.
And yes, the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and other like agencies need to go back to carrying a shovel and a bucket rather than a Taser. We should demand Congress clearly define the missions of all federal agencies and be strong enough to reverse the trend of bigger government, out-of-control spending, and diminishing individual rights.
The U.S. Congress is the body that should be defending the Constitution by clarifying, repealing, demanding accountability, and working for “we the people” to restore truth and trust in government. As a combat veteran who has seen the consequences of armed conflict, the act of supporting activities that fuel hatred towards our government and advocating for a militia separate from the National Guard is simply un-American. Again, that’s more leadership, less politics.
And speaking of leadership, I believe Montana is more interested in creating jobs and making sure that working families can still reach the American dream of having a good job, buying a house and sending their kids to school. We need to get government out of small business so that American innovation and free market competition can excel.
The government’s role is not to pick winners or losers but rather to promote opportunity for success for anyone who is willing to work hard. We need common sense changes to our health care and to stop the East Coast “one size fits all” mentality that works against rural states like Montana. That’s what I mean by less politics.
We chose to live in Montana and are blessed with clean air, water, and are fortunate to share in the fruits of having access and use of our public lands. Responsible development of our assets, to include resources on our public lands, will create economic prosperity and a better future in the Treasure State. Achieving North America energy independence will restore domestic manufacturing, shore up our trade balance, and create a more stable world.
Let’s concentrate on looking at the facts and fixing the problem rather than creating hype or distorting the truth through nefarious websites. Above all, let’s work to restore and rebuild American exceptionalism and recognize that “united we stand, divided we fall.” That’s the more leadership, less politics that I’m talking about.
Commander Ryan Zinke, U.S. Navy (retired), is a 23-year veteran, a commander at SEAL Team SIX a former Montana state senator, and a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.