National Wildlife Federation and Colorado Wildlife Federation: Zinke is the right pick
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A measure of a leader is the ability to bring people together to get big things done.  This is particularly true for the Secretary of Interior, who needs a collaborative leadership style to address vexing challenges, from improving management of public lands and recovering thousands of at-risk wildlife species to confronting water shortages and reclaiming degraded lands. 

Making progress requires engaging multiple levels of government, tribes, landowners, conservationists, and other stakeholders to find solutions that are grounded in sound science and uphold America’s core conservation values.

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As an organization that represents millions of hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts, the National Wildlife Federation and its state affiliate, the Colorado Wildlife Federation, believe that Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) has the conservation ethic and leadership ability to be a strong Interior Secretary. We urge the Senate to quickly confirm him and we look forward to working with him to tackle unprecedented challenges.

 

At the root of these challenges lie decades of underinvestment in our natural resources and eroded relationships over the management of our public lands. Americans overwhelmingly support the need to keep public lands in public hands, but they want them managed better.

Hunters and anglers view America’s public lands as a birthright and a sacred part of our democratic heritage held in trust for future generations. In Colorado and across our nation, public lands serve as the foundation of America’s $646 billion outdoor recreation economy and support more than 6 million jobs.

In Colorado alone, outdoor recreation generates more than $13 billion in annual spending and employs well over 120,000 people. Nonetheless, the political fight over sell-off continues to rage in Congress and state capitols, fueled by ideologues and special interests intent on privatizing public resources and eliminating public access.

Rep. Zinke has demonstrated leadership by opposing the takeover of our public lands — lands President Theodore Roosevelt once called our “most glorious heritage.” As an avid sportsman from Montana, he understands that most American hunters and anglers depend upon public lands because the vast majority cannot afford private hunt clubs.

In Congress, Rep. Zinke led the charge to keep public lands public and to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  He quit the Republican Platform Committee over its inclusion of a plank supporting selling our public lands.  During his confirmation hearing, he adamantly supported public lands and committed to rely on sound science to manage natural resources. He has advocated for investing in our National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and Bureau of Land Management lands, and has consistently supported State Wildlife Grants and other collaborative, proactive efforts to recover wildlife populations before species require more expensive and draconian measures.

Of course, we anticipate there will be instances where we disagree. Rep. Zinke will face incredible pressure to expand energy development and it will be important that he stand up to conserve important wildlife habitat and support hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation interests Preserving measures that improve BLM planning, reduce methane pollution, and recover sage grouse would be a good start.

He’ll have to defend the Antiquities Act, which since first used by Theodore Roosevelt has protected world-class hunting, fishing, and cultural sites, like Browns Canyon and the Colorado National Monument. Efforts to reform coal leasing must include a fair return for taxpayers and sufficient resources to reclaim degraded lands.

He’ll also face a growing list of endangered species, unless we can secure significant dedicated investment for proactive recovery efforts. We are committed to working with the new Secretary to engage local communities to find solutions that are supported by sound science, reflect America’s conservation values and benefit local economies.

The Secretary of Interior is responsible for what President Roosevelt called “the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.”  We believe Ryan Zinke is up for the challenge and encourage the Senate to confirm him swiftly so he can start bringing people together to fulfill this sacred duty. 

Collin O’Mara is president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, America’s largest conservation organization with more than six million members and fifty state and territorial affiliates, committed to uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world.

Suzanne O’Neill is executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation.

 


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