Zinke is running to represent the newly-formed MT-1 District, which encompasses “15 counties in western Montana and part of Pondera County, including the cities of Missoula, Kalispell, Butte, Bozeman and Hamilton.” Right now, he’s favored to win the “Likely Republican” district.
If elected again, Zinke will resume support for pro-Second Amendment and pro-public lands legislation.
I recently spoke with former Secretary Zinke at the 44th annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) in Las Vegas, Nevada, about wildlife conservation, national monuments, and if Paramount Network’s hit show, Yellowstone, accurately depicts the Montana way of life.
Zinke Prepared to Advocate for True Conservation Again
“Out West, conservation is a big, big deal,” said the 52nd Interior Secretary. “We’re at SHOT Show, where the Second Amendment reigns supreme and the Second Amendment is not about hunting. It's about the ability of an individual to defend himself, his family, and his lifestyle.”
“In order to be a steward of our public lands and our legacy, it takes management,” he added. “You can't just let it go. And it should be unacceptable that you have forest fires that are chewing up hundreds of thousands of acres putting lives at risk. And in some cases, loss of life and destroying habitat. It’s destroying watersheds.”
“The John Muir model of ‘leave it alone to wilderness’ works in some areas, but it can't be the model for all of our public lands because what we're witnessing is a lack of management.”
Zinke also criticized the Biden administration for repealing the 2020 Alaska Roadless Rule, saying measures like it undermine public access for elderly and differently-abled outdoor enthusiasts.
“Public land belongs to the public, and access is important,” he stressed. “What we're seeing is a continuation of shutting roads down, limiting public access.”
The former Interior Secretary believes public land stewards including hunters, anglers, and ranchers are “under assault and attack in many cases.”
Zinke expounded on this, declaring, “The best conservationists are those that use the land and understand the importance of it.”
Biden Admin Weaponizing ESA, Playing Politics With Grizzly Bears
I asked about the fully-recovered Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bear, which he delisted, and why the Biden administration refuses to follow the science after restoring threatened protections on it.
The conservationist noted, “We should celebrate the success of the Endangered Species Act. It did recover a species [the GYE grizzly bear] that was under duress.”
“Let's move assets over to some of the species that are under duress, as there are a lot of species that we do need to look at. Focus on assets, but those [species] that have recovered, celebrate the success,” he continued.
How Patagonia Distorted Zinke’s 2017 Review of Nat’l Monuments
I asked Zinke to comment on Patagonia’s viral ad that proclaimed ‘The President Stole Your Land’ in wake of his department’s 2017 review of controversial National Monuments— including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah.
He mentioned the Antiquities Act of 1906, which bestows presidents specific (but limited) powers over national monument designations—arguing his review didn’t “change public land ownership.”
Objects to be protected under such designations must be on federal land, “not private or state land.” He explained Section II of the law, which awards the president power to designate the “smallest area compatible with protection of the object”—a principle former President Obama violated after designating Bears Ears on December 28th, 2016. Zinke believes this declaration “put hunting, fishing, [and] traditional use at risk.”
Much to the chagrin of Patagonia, his report only recommended a reduction—not elimination—of several controversial monuments.
“Shame on Patagonia,” Zinke continued. “If they really cared about the environment, perhaps they wouldn't manufacture in China, where, you know, 90% of the world's plastics comes from four rivers in China and they pay child wages.”
“There wasn't one square inch in the review that left public ownership; it was just how you use it,” affirmed the avid sportsman.
“The law on the Antiquities Act, it's pretty simple. It's less than a page. And I think he should coordinate with the states—and you should coordinate with the stakeholders—to make sure if you're going to have a monument, follow the law and make sure it's in the best interest of the people that would use it.”
A Montanan’s Take on the Popular Yellowstone TV Series
I was compelled to ask Zinke, a fifth-generation Montanan, about the hit Paramount Network series Yellowstone (which TV Guide aptly dubbed “conservative prestige TV”) and if it accurately depicts his state. Until Season 4, the show was largely filmed in Utah—not Montana.
“I think the vistas are great,” he responded. “It's fiction. But what makes it compelling is it's so well-acted. I think the production and the quality of acting is superb, so it draws you into a story.”
“Is it like Montana? You know, it has a reflection of it. It's not exactly like Montana oftentimes. Montanans would not put up with dynamiting a watershed and diverting the river. You'd be thrown in jail on that one, as an example. But I think the series is great entertainment. The vistas, again—the outdoors—are splendid.