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Bozeman Daily Chronicle: An honest vote for protecting public land

June 28, 2016

Bozeman Daily Chronicle: An honest vote for protecting public land

by Denise Juneau, guest columnist

There is no greater beauty than the unspoiled view of Montana’s open spaces. From the high Beartooth peaks to the clean and clear Blackfoot River, our mountains, forests and streams stretch from one edge of the horizon to the other.

Montana is home to the last best places on Earth. It’s what sets Big Sky country apart from anywhere else. But beyond their breathtaking beauty, Montana’s public lands are a source of recreation, and economic opportunity, as well as clean air and water. Public lands are where parents introduce their children to fishing, hunting and camping. They are in our DNA.

Public lands offer a promise to every hardworking Montana family that they can access and enjoy the best our state has to offer. A promise that says these places are for all of us, not just for the wealthy or the privileged. That is a promise I will keep to the people of Montana. I will always fight to protect access to our public lands and will never vote to transfer or sell them off.

But Congressman Ryan Zinke cannot truthfully say the same.

Just last week, Congressman Zinke voted to allow the transfer of Montana’s public lands. The bill he supported would hand over management of our public lands to politically appointed advisory councils. Up to 200,000 acres of every national forest could be transferred out of our control.

Under this measure, our national forest lands would no longer be protected by national wildlife, clean water and clean air standards. And once in the hands of the un-elected advisory council, the land would be managed solely as a source of revenue. With short-term revenue as their sole motivation, you can bet that our forests would no longer be a “land of many uses.”

Instead, two million acres of public land in Montana would be unprotected and could even be put up for sale. Montanans who love to hunt, fish, hike and ride on our national forests are outraged, and so am I.

Before he took this vote, Congressman Zinke told us he would never sell or transfer our public land. Then, after he voted, he quickly denied what he had done.

The bottom line is that Congressman Zinke broke his promise. And it wasn’t the first time. Congressman Zinke has repeatedly supported proposals that would allow the transfer or sale of Montana’s public lands. And now he’s being dishonest about it.

Montanans are working together toward better land management every day, and they deserve support in Congress. There are many collaborative proposals for improved timber management, expanded recreation, and the conservation of clean water and wildlife across our great state. These ideas need a champion in Washington D.C., not a politician with a reckless plan to hand over millions of acres of public land to political committees dominated by special interests.

Our public lands are priceless and we must pass them on to our children, to be used and enjoyed.

I will never forget when my parents introduced me to the beauty of Montana’s great open spaces. It’s the same memory so many of us cherish and pass on to the next generation. Escaping to our public lands to hunt, fish, explore and camp under the Big Sky is something no one can take away from us.

For all of Montana’s grandeur, we only have one vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to protect it. And Congressman Zinke has proven himself unworthy of that responsibility. But this November, the people of Montana can hold Congressman Zinke accountable for his actions. I ask that you cast your vote for me, so that Montanans always have an honest voice to ensure our public lands remain in public hands.