Thursday, January 19, 2017

Zinke gets the thumbs up from Montana agricultural groups

Rebecca Colnar
for Tri-State Livestock News 

Ranchers watching the hearing may have noticed that grazing did not make the list of multiple use; natural resource development of oil production and coal received the most attention, with sportsmen’s concerns coming in second. Several western senators surfaced sage grouse management issues, and how stakeholders in the western states had worked to develop a feasible solution only to have those plans dismissed by the Bureau of Land Management. However, despite the lack of agriculturally related comments, ranchers believe the Congressman will listen to the concerns of those whose livelihoods depend on grazing public lands. As Montana’s Representative, Zinke has been willing to meet with ag groups and local rural communities. “He’s been very supportive of the agricultural community,” said Tom DePuydt, a cow-calf producer from Malta. “About a year ago, he held a town hall meeting in Malta and heard our local concerns, especially regarding the listing of sage grouse as an endangered species. The Treasured Landscape Initiative, for monument expansion, introduced in 2010 by the then Bureau of Land Management Director Robert Abbey, was still very much on the minds of people in Malta and Rep. Zinke listened to us.” DePuydt believes Zinke will be a willing listener. “Listening and understanding is an important part of local input. Federal plans need to be consistent with local land use. I find it disturbing that in some cases, international concerns carry more weight than those of local people.” Although Zinke has indicated his strong support of funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, DePuydt expressed concern. “I have reservations about that, as I feel that fund needs to be overhauled and have a limitation regarding private lands and private property rights. I worry that fund provides too much money for land acquisitions. However, I’m hopeful if voted as Interior Secretary and with the new leadership in Washington, D.C., Zinke will make proper use of development of natural resources a priority. That’s what makes our rural communities thrive,” DePuydt said. Montana Farm Bureau President Hans McPherson, who has met with Rep. Zinke in Montana and Washington, D.C., is thrilled with the nomination. “My experience is he gathers facts before forming opinions. He wants information from people who are on the ground with dirt under their fingernails or sawdust in their cuffs,” said the Stevensville rancher. “He wants to know what’s going on in the woods and on the farm. He will be levelheaded and honest, and willing to take advice and seek advice. He’s not going to tell you he’ll do something, then not do it.” McPherson believes Zinke will listen, a trait that he believes has been lacking in past interior secretaries. “Anybody who grazes, farms, logs or mines will have a say. He is certainly not going to let the environment get trashed, but he’ll use sound science to make decisions, and give more weight to those directly affect by federal land management policies than basing a decision from someone far-removed in San Francisco.” The fact Zinke understands Western issues is critical. “Montana is unique because we have logging, we have grazing, we have mining, and yet we also have the biggest and best national parks in this country,” McPherson noted. Zinke understands the importance of balancing those. He will be a great asset to President Trump’s cabinet, and as a Montanan, I couldn’t be more excited or more proud to have him serve as Secretary of the Interior.”...more

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