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Ryan Zinke is a fifth generation Montanan who serves as Representative for Montana’s First Congressional District covering 16 counties in western Montana including the cities of Bozeman, Butte, Missoula, Kalispell. First elected to Congress in 2014, and serving as U.S. Secretary of the Interior between noncontiguous terms, Zinke has built a track record of accomplishments in energy, conservation, tribal and military issues. Now in his third term, Zinke is a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, focusing his legislative agenda on restoring accountability to federal spending, restoring American energy dominance, and bolstering national security at our borders and beyond.
Ryan began public service in 1985 when he joined the U.S. Navy and graduated from Officer Candidate School. He was recruited to join the U.S. Navy SEALs where he went on dozens of deployments targeting terrorist cells in Asia, war criminals in the Baltics, and combatting the rise of radical Islamic terrorists in the middle east. During his military career he held a number of leadership positions including as Ground Forces and Task Force commander at SEAL Teams SIX oversaw the U.S. Navy SEAL BUD/S training after 9/11, and was Deputy/Acting Commander of Joint Special Forces during the Iraq war. In 2006 he was awarded the Bronze Star for his service. Commander Zinke retired from active duty in 2008 after serving for 23 years.
Following his military service, Ryan was elected to the Montana State Senate and was twice elected as Montana’s sole member of the U.S. House of Representatives. During his first two terms as Congressman, Zinke served on the House Armed Services Committee and Natural Resources Committee. As a leading member of the Natural Resources Committee, Ryan challenged the Obama Administration on their policies that locked Montanans out of public lands and introduced legislation to strengthen public access and conservation.
In December 2016, Congressman Zinke was nominated by President Donald J. Trump and later confirmed by a bipartisan vote in the Senate. Ryan was the first Montanan to serve in a Presidential Cabinet. As Secretary, he oversaw the domestic energy plan that made the USA energy independent, championed restoring the voice of state, tribal and local communities in natural resources decisions, and was the principal architect behind the two provisions that became the backbone of the Great American Outdoors Act.
Ryan is a fifth generation Montanan who was born in Bozeman and lives on the same property in Whitefish his family has called home since the 1950s. In high school, Ryan served as class president and was a multiple sport, All-State athlete who earned a place in the Whitefish High School Football Hall of Fame. He received an athletic scholarship to the University of Oregon where he lettered all four years and graduated with a B.S. in Geology. He also holds a Masters in Business Finance from National University and a Masters in Global Leadership from the University of San Diego.
Ryan is married to the former Lolita Hand and together they have three children: two sons, Wolfgang and Konrad, a daughter Jennifer. Ryan and Lola are grandparents to two granddaughters.
A STRONG ECONOMY
We are facing historic inflation and the rate of consumer prices increases have hit a 40-year high. Costs of everything from building supplies and energy to groceries and home products have skyrocketed under the Biden-Pelosi agenda. Under President Biden, Montanans are paying more.
It’s bad enough that the Biden-Pelosi Administration has already cost Montana jobs and much needed revenue through the shortsighted cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and the ill-fated moratorium on energy development on federal lands. Now, the Democrats have selected a nominee in Monica Tranel who is hellbent on destroying the oil and gas industry and will be nothing more than a rubber stamp on this disastrous agenda.
By comparison, when Ryan Zinke led the Interior Department, federal energy revenues increased by billions – which meant more money for Montana and better energy prices. ($30 million in 2019). Ryan and President Trump made America energy dominant, not just independent.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Whitefish, Whitehall, or Wibaux, Montanans feeling the pinch right now, and it could get a whole lot worse. Uncontrolled government spending plus rising consumer prices has sent our economy into a deep recession. We’re already seeing too many small businesses unable to find workers, even while unemployment remains low. We must recover our economy.
- Pass additional tax reform
- Rein in the out-of-control government spending
- Cut red-tape and government mandates on businesses and job creators
It wasn’t long ago that the U.S. economy was booming under President Trump’s pro-growth economic policies. Unemployment was at a half-century low, around 3.5%. Median household incomes increased about 10% over the end of the Obama-Biden years, and the poverty rate was the lowest in recorded history. We can get back to a booming economy with pro-growth policies.
HEALTHY FORESTS AND WILDFIRE PREVENTION
During the Biden-Pelosi Administration, fires across the west burned a record 17+ million acres and over 24,000 structures. The cost to taxpayers was in the billions and the loss of life and habitat was tragic. The Forest Service estimates a backlog of 80M acres of unhealthy forest in need of restoration and 63M acres have a dangerously high fire risk. When Department of Interior lands are added to the mix, the scale of forest mismanagement from years of neglect is staggering.
There is little doubt that the fire season is longer and drought conditions and elevated temperatures have created a perfect storm. Everyone should agree that the federal government can – and must – do more to restore the health of our forests to be more resilient against catastrophic wildfires, regardless of where they fall on the issue of climate change. For climate change advocates, the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere by fires cannot be ignored. Dryer and hotter conditions should encourage active management rather than offer an excuse for the destruction of habitat and waste of renewable resources. The good news is, there are common sense solutions that can be quickly enacted if Congress had the resolve and leadership to get it done.
Under the previous Administration, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass the “wildfire funding fix” which treated wildfires like other natural disasters, allocated more money for suppression, and provided more resources toward wildfire fighting and response. Addressing the cost of fighting fires was helpful and I supported those efforts, but the real solution is using best science and better management to help prevent wildfires in the first place.
Congress has the power to fix this problem and restore our federal forests to health and resiliency by taking immediate steps:
Be a good partner: Large-scale forest restoration projects are lengthy and expensive, but the Federal government is under strict rules about how long their contracts can be. Lengthening the time the feds can partner on forest projects provides more certainty and increases the likelihood of investment and improved forest health.
Adhere to science-driven sustainable timber yields: Study after study has determined sustainable timber yields that promote healthy forests yet lawsuit after lawsuit by radical environmental groups have prevented or delayed harvest, salvage operations, and restoration projects. The result has been overgrown forests, a waste of renewable resources, and greater risk to property and life.
Prioritize prescribed burns: Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem and some of the earliest Native Americans used prescribed burns to manage the range and forests. Federal law should prioritize late season prescribed burns as a management tool to clear the dense underbrush and dead and dying timber on the forest floors by granting categorical exclusions and omitting prescribed burns from state Clean Air Act compliance. History has proven the catastrophic wildfires that occur on overgrown and unhealthy forests release more carbon, destroy more critical habitat, and do more damage to watersheds than tightly controlled burns.
Lift the export ban: Outdated policy from the 1970s made it illegal to export timber from federal lands. However the world is a different place now. Our forests are unhealthy and milling capacity has plummeted. Authorizing the export from federal lands would create an incentive for State, Tribal and private entities to partner with federal forests.
Promote biomass: Healthy trees are resilient trees, but dead, diseased and defective logs create a tinderbox. There is little use for this material however it is perfect for biomass. Promoting biomass as the viable, cost-effective and renewable source of energy it is would create a market for what is currently a dangerous hazard.
Coupled with best forest management practices like species diversification, fighting invasive species, clearing transmission rights of way, and targeted thinning, these bipartisan policies could greatly improve the health of our federal forests and prevent smoke filled summers.
Radical environmentalists would have you believe forest management means clear cutting forests and national parks. But their rhetoric could not be further from the truth. They make outdated and unscientific arguments, void of facts, because they cannot defend the merits of their policy preferences year after year as our forests and homes burn to the ground. Anyone who says managing, saving and restoring forests is not conservation is either knowingly lying or doesn’t understand the issue.
We’ve seen too much destruction and loss of life to keep doing nothing. The hotter and drier climate mixed with decades of neglect of federal forests has created a lethal situation in Montana and across the west. We need science-driven solutions that restore health to our dead and dying forests. We could use less politics and more leadership in Washington, DC.
It’s the basic Constitutional Duty of the federal government to secure the border. Currently, there is no southwest border, it’s completely open. Under the Biden-Pelosi Administration, more than two million illegal aliens have been apprehended at the southern border and migrant border arrests have surged to the highest level in 21 years. This stresses local communities, strains resources and tax dollars, and creates a massive security threat.
The threats are many: Deadly drugs like fentanyl are shipped from China to Mexico and make their way into our country by drug cartels. Criminals and possibly terrorists fly to Central America and hire coyotes and smugglers to enter our country illegally. The public health threat of a million unvaccinated individuals flooding our border is causing COVID outbreaks in American towns and putting Americans at greater risk. Illegal weapons are smuggled by gang and cartel members and rain violence on our cities and against law enforcement.
Congress must take action to:
- Finish the wall
- Fully fund and implement MPP
- Fully fund and support Border Patrol and ICE
- Designate cartels as foreign terrorist organizations
- Uphold third country asylum agreements signed with Central American countries to solve the regional migration problem
- Require any foreign arrivals to produce a negative COVID test and proof of full vaccination
- Seek and deport those who miss hearing dates or are convicted of crime
- Fine/defund sanctuary cities
FIXING OUR BROKEN EDUCATION SYSTEM
Like my mother and father before me, I am a proud graduate from Whitefish High School and was equally proud that after a 23-year career in the military with multiple overseas tours, two of my three children were also able to graduate from Whitefish. We are a Bulldog family. This was the same high school that excelled in academic and athletic excellence. It was a time when the principles of our founding fathers were honored, the pledge of allegiance was recited, and the flag was respected. When our boys graduated, Lola and I were confident that they received a similar education.
Today, the learning environment has radical changed and we should all take notice. Our children are being conned into believing that America is not the land of the free and brave but rather a racist country built on oppression and inequity.
Something has gone terribly wrong. Mandated Covid lockdowns gave parents a peek behind the curtain. Montana parents saw what was really being taught in the classroom and it was not the classics, math, or the Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery. Critical thinking is being replaced by Critical Race Theory and even our greatest conservationists, Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, are being labeled as racists and excused from classroom.
Political activists and out-of-touch teacher unions have taken over the U.S. Department of Education and they are working to control what our children read and learn. Classrooms are becoming more focused on indoctrination rather than teaching core curriculum. This is common practice in China, North Korea and Cuba – it should not be in Corvallis, Norris and Cut Bank.
Last year, the Biden Administration launched a plan to remake public schooling, advancing radical policies at every turn and forcing a radical woke agenda into the classroom. If you don’t submit to their demands, they harass, intimidate, and threaten defunding. Biden’s priorities for American History and Civics Education mandate CRT via “culturally responsive teaching and learning” through “anti-racist practices” and “identity-safe” learning. And my opponent, Monica Tranel, is in lock-step.
The Biden-Tranel indoctrination agenda does not end there. Their plan to redefine Title IX would put girls and young women at a clear disadvantage in school sports – allowing biological boys and young men to compete in their leagues. Even the Department of Agriculture is being weaponized, threatening to withhold School Lunch Program funds if schools do not adhere – literally withholding food from hungry children. My boys were well over 6 feet tall and about 200 pounds in high school. I do not think they should have been allowed to compete on the girls’ soccer team.
This all comes after a pandemic in which political leaders bent to the demands of the progressive radicals instead of focusing on what was best for kids. Schools were shut and virtual courses were a poor substitute for in-person classes. Children were masked, their social and educational development stunted, and the consequences are stark. Montana test scores in math came in at just 34% proficient in spring 2021, and 46% proficient for reading.
But it is not all doom and gloom. We can fix this and get public education back on track if we work together at the local and state level. Covid clearly reminded us that you can’t just drop the kids off and think everything will be just fine. It takes active participation from school boards, teachers, and most importantly parents. As a former State Senator, I chaired the education committee and have faith that Montanans care and support education. We expanded options for rural education and skilled trades, knowing that not every kid learns the same way or excels in the same subjects. We need to do the same at a federal level and implement national school choice where the funding follows the student regardless of the venue they receive their education.
It is also time to dismantle the Department of Education replace it with a downsized office under the Office of Management and Budget where it can be audited and better managed. We don’t need an army of DC bureaucrats pulling the strings on what is largely a state and local responsibility. If elected to Congress again, I would maintain my seniority and go to the Appropriations committee and work to empower Montana to the make right decisions for our kids. The original intent of the Department might have been noble, but like many government programs, it has turned into a bureaucratic nightmare that is reaching too far into our personal lives and has strayed too far from Constitutional authorities.
Lastly and most important, parents deserve to be treated with respect, not like domestic terrorists and teachers need the resources in the classroom where it matters. Any school that receives federal funding should be required to adhere to a Parents’ Bill of Rights where all parents have the right to see, on-demand, the assignments, reading material and lesson plans, and observe classes. Children do not belong to the state or the teacher’s unions and the vast majority of teachers just want to teach free from forced woke agenda, politics, and checking identity boxes.
My grandmother was a one room school house teacher on the Eastern plains of Montana and ironically I think the profession has become more difficult for different reasons. Let’s not make it worse by putting them in the crosshairs of the radical experiments coming out of social media and Hollywood.
PUBLIC ACCESS TO PUBLIC LANDS
In Montana, public access to public lands is not only our birthright, it’s a way of life. We know that traditional mixed-use of these lands makes our state great. So much of who we are and our economy is tied to access to the land. But radical activists infiltrating D.C. policy positions would rather restrict the public’s use of our lands and resources.
Whether it’s outdoor recreation, ranching, energy development or timber harvesting, Montana’s 27 million acres of federally-managed public lands are working lands and they are an important part of who we are in the west.
Outdoor recreation is a powerful economic engine and way of life for Montana. It adds up to billions in economic output and countless memories and quality time with the people we love. Maintaining public access to public lands is an absolutely critical part of that. As your congressman and Secretary of the Interior, Ryan always fought for expanded access to public lands and you can count on him to keep fighting.
Ryan’s accomplishments as Interior Secretary:
- Opposed the sale or transfer of public lands
- Supported permanent reauthorization of LWCF
- Protected the Paradise Valley from mining
- Rebuilt Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park
- Expanded access for hunting and fishing on millions of acres of land
- Created the largest investment in National Parks Infrastructure in history using Federal energy revenues
- Saved Montana guides and outfitters from expensive government mandates for federal contractors
A key to public access on public lands is infrastructure. People need passable roads and trails, working campsites, and safe boat ramps and bridges to use the land. As Secretary of the Interior one of Ryan’s greatest accomplishments was getting overwhelming bipartisan support to rebuild National Parks infrastructure (roads, trails, campgrounds, waterlines, etc) by using federal energy revenues and leading the charge on permanent and full reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Those bills became the backbone of the Great American Outdoors Act and led the way for the greatest investment in our parks and public lands in a century.
KEEPING OUR PROMISE TO VETERANS
Montana has a strong military tradition unparalleled by almost any other state in the nation. More than 1-in-10 of us hears the call to serve in the armed forces, and in the sovereign Tribal nations the warrior spirit is even stronger. Ryan Zinke served 23 years in the U.S. Navy SEALs and every day saw the patriotism, service and sacrifice of our troops. The United States must honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who served our great nation.
Montana is unique. For many Montana veterans, a trip to the VA can be an all-day affair and many medical specialties such as mental health are not easily available causing veterans’ needs are going unmet. To solve this, Congress must create flexibilities that allow veterans to seek care outside the VA system and expand telehealth services.
To meet the full promise we made to our veterans, Congress must also:
Reduce the number of service members and veterans who die by suicide
Improve programs and services for women, Native American and minority veterans
Expand telehealth services
Timely and improved transition assistance, including access to programs after they leave military service
High-quality and sustainable education benefits
Strong employment and training programs
Small business development opportunities
Civilian credentials or academic credit for military training
Incentivize employers to hire veterans
As Montana’s Congressman, Ryan was a leading voice for veterans. He was an early co-sponsor of the PAWS Act which trained and funded service dogs for veterans living with PTSD, and the Providing Veterans with Overdue Care Act which authorized a major VA outpatient facility in Missoula. His legislative record also includes:
Introduced the Global War on Terror Memorial Act
Introduced the Justice for Victims of Military Sexual Assault Act
Co-sponsored the Faster Care for Veterans Act, VA Accountability Act, and many others.
As Congressman, retired Commander Zinke also hosted ceremonies across the state to honor thousands of Montana Vietnam War Veterans with the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Pin.
Our troops gave us everything they have, leaving nothing on the battlefield. We owe it to them to give them our best.
HUNTING AND FISHING
Hunting is not only our heritage and birthright as Americans, it is also the most important tool we have to ensure healthy wildlife and habitat. American hunters and anglers are the backbone of the American model for conservation, generating over a billion dollars each year for conservation efforts. For more than 150 years, sportsmen and women have led efforts to protect and conserve our Nation’s fish and wildlife. This model has been repeated by dozens of countries across the globe for a simple reason: it works.
As Secretary of Interior, one of Ryan’s top priorities was expanding hunter access and education and removing many of the roadblocks the previous administrations built against hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts. Under his leadership, the Department of the Interior:
- Expanded hunting and fishing access on millions of acres of public lands and waters.
- Repealed the ban on lead shot and tackle
- Established the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council to expand access, education and awareness programs
- Collaborated with states and private partners to establish the first big game migration corridors
- Modernized the endangered species act
- Eliminated the policy that barred BLM lands from being managed as shooting ranges
- Restored the local voice in decision of how, when and where to hunt on federal lands
Ryan will continue to be a vocal supporter of our Second Amendment, hunting and fishing rights in Congress.