Who is Zinke Actually Representing?

Zinke claims that he is a “Teddy Roosevelt” conservative. I hardly think so.

I was at my reloading bench the day Ryan Zinke, wearing cowboy hat and jeans while on a rent-a-horse, rode up to his new office to start his first day as Secretary of the Interior. His first task was to sign an order revoking a gradual phase out of lead ammunition on our National Wildlife Refuges. The phase-out was put in place by Former President Barack Obama. Waterfowl hunters have been using non-toxic steel shot since the early 1970s. Ironically, I was loading some ammunition for next hunting season using Nosler E-tip bullets and Barnes “tried and true” X bullets. Both are lead-free and extremely accurate in many of my hunting rifles. Cost wise, they are comparable to the better quality lead core bullets. Not all riflemen and hunters agree with Zinke’s decision. I believe the majority of sportsmen would support the studies showing the harm caused to non-target wildlife ingesting lead.

Not surprisingly, the National Rifle Association led the charge, pushing Zinke to revoke the gradual phase out on lead ammunition on our wildlife refuges. The majority of gun owners in the United States are not NRA members. So who is Zinke actually representing? Is this what we can expect from him as Secretary of Interior – the person who should honor and protect the public trust, land, water and wildlife?

His voting record was questionable while he served in Congress. He publicly stated that North American bison should be managed as livestock. Yet, the bison – our national mammal and the emblem of the National Park Service – are wildlife and should be managed as such. He voted on a bill that would make the transfer of public lands easier. He also voted against a bill that would have redirected money for fighting wildfires to FEMA. Instead, he chose to drain the U.S. Forest Service budget. Over 60 percent of the USFS budget goes to firefighting costs, which means the agency doesn’t have enough funding for other management. He then stated that the USFS has done a poor job managing its lands.

Zinke claims that he is a “Teddy Roosevelt” conservative. I hardly think so. Teddy Roosevelt fought to save the last of our wild bison herds. Teddy fought to save the last of our vanishing wilderness and other wildlife. If Teddy Roosevelt were here today, I believe he would use lead-free ammunition in his Winchesters.

Frank Vitale
Columbia Falls