Zinke’s Silver Bullet Horse Ride, Ooops…Lead Bullet

By Ross Peter Nelson

“I’m on a horse.” No, that wasn’t the Old Spice guy, it was “Montana’s own” Ryan Zinke, newly installed Secretary of the Interior. He apparently felt the need to showboat a little, and so rode about a mile from the National Park Service’s stables on the National Mall to his new office at the Department of the Interior. And that’s fine, he should get to celebrate any way that makes him happy.

During his swearing in he stated, “I shall faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s belief that our treasured public lands are ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people’ and will work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits all Americans for generations to come.” That same day, however, his actions were significantly at odds with those words.

One of Zinke’s first official acts was to repeal a ban on the use of toxic lead ammunition on federal land. Theoretically this benefits hunters because of lower ammunition costs, but that appears to be an “alternate fact” promulgated by the NRA. A university study showed that non-toxic bullets were about equally priced with their lead counterparts.

The science behind banning lead is unmistakable. Lead, which is responsible for poisoning the water of Flint, Michigan, and which was banned from gasoline over two decades ago, enters the environment at a rate of 100,000 tons per year due to hunting and fishing alone, That lead then poisons approximately 20 million birds and other animals, either directly by ingestion or indirectly by scavenging.

Nor does Zinke have any excuse for not being aware of the toxicity of lead. Just a few blocks from his Helena office, the offices of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality lie empty. The building that housed them was formerly a National Guard armory. It was abandoned after lead levels tested at over 40 times what is considered safe for humans, putting the employees at risk for brain damage, anemia, and kidney failure.

Zinke’s actions in repealing the lead ban do not reflect Montanans desire for healthy wildlife and a dynamic outdoor ecosystem. And they put to shame his pretensions to be placed along side a conservationists like Teddy Roosevelt. The real reason for his actions is to curry favor with the NRA, whose knee-jerk reaction is to oppose any government action that relates to guns in any way. Why not side with groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, American Bird Conservancy, and Sierra Club who see a lead-free habitat as better for both humans and wildlife.

“To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.” — Teddy Roosevelt


17 Comments on "Zinke’s Silver Bullet Horse Ride, Ooops…Lead Bullet"

  1. Matthew Koehler | March 7, 2017 1:08 PM at 1:08 PM |

    Good post.

    It’s worth pointing out that flanking Sec Zinke on Day One and cheering him on as he signed an order to expand motorized recreation and repeal a ban on lead ammo and fishing tackling within America’s National WILDLIFE REFUGES (at the expense of birds, fish, wildlife and public health) were CEO-level, old white dude representatives of various “Sportsmen’s” groups, including representatives of the Boone and Crockett Club, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Mule Deer Foundation, the Wild Sheep Foundation and, of course, the National Rifle Association and Safari Club.

    I keep saying it, but to those America’s who really care deeply about America’s public lands and wildlife, I’d encourage them to not entirely trust what they are being told by “Sportsmen’s” groups. Too often these “Sportsmen’s” groups will either sit out very important public lands battles (likely not wanting to offend their deep-pocketed, conservative donors like Donald Trump Jr) or even be on the totally wrong side of the issue.

    Ethical hunters not only shoot copper loads, but they proudly use their voice to encourage other hunters to make the switch and “get the lead out” to benefit raptors, wildlife, fish and even the health of their families, who may be ingesting lead unknowingly.

  2. As a sportsman I fully support getting rid of lead in fishing and in shotgun pellets. I still have reservations about the use of alternative bullets that do not contain lead. There are multiple problems with them ranging from accuracy, stopping power and barrel wear. As far as lead in lost animals I would have to see an unbiased study that shows this is a problem. I have butchered many dozens of deer,elk, antelope and moose over the past 40 years and have only found a few bullet fragments in any of them. My major concern with the use of non lead bullets is that the number of animals that are not located or are wounded and get away will increase substantially. When we went away from lead shot in waterfowl hunting it took manufacturers 20 years to come up with shot that had the same killing power as lead, these loads are 4 times the cost of lead and 3 times the cost of steel. This in itself has made a lot of younger hunters give up waterfowling. To be truthful I know a great many people who are behind these regulation changes are doing them for the right reasons, but a part of me also knows that anti hunting and fishing people are using this as another way of cutting down on the number people doing these activities.

  3. Nice ‘message’ Mr/Commando Zinke, riding a horse named ‘TONTO’, really and you’re the ‘buddy’ of Native-Americans?

  4. Y’all DO realize that Jon Boi voted to confirm him, right? Why do the dems keep stabbing their core voters in the back?

    • Old Line Democrat | March 7, 2017 3:44 PM at 3:44 PM |

      Maybe Boi is confident that when the real ugly side of Bannon/Trump administration stuff starts coming out Zinke’s ties to the “alt-right” will knock him out without any of the 2nd Amendment blowback. Smart political play.

  5. I believe Tester realizes that voting against Zinke would of been hell to pay come 2018. He knows his base of the 40% democrats will vote for him no matter what. He knows he has to start running as republican lite to pick up that 6-7% needed to win. I’m wondering now if Gianforte wins and honors his word to run again for house in 2018 who may be GOP candidate. Zinke will stay the 4 years then have a 6 figure job on k street.

  6. “Tonto” is an Irish Sport Horse. Not even a good stock horse like a Quarter Horse or a Paint that you can fish from.

    • Old Line Democrat | March 7, 2017 8:14 PM at 8:14 PM |

      Well it’s an urban park horse. It’s not hearing stock on the Washington Mall nor is he fly fishing in the Potomac.
      I don’t know enough about the horse but I have to believe it’s good at its job which is probably primarily crowd control. The horse only has one ass. He can’t be held responsible for having one strapped on his back.

  7. I wonder why DC police put Zinke on a horse named Tonto…Spanish for “stupid”. Inside joke or coincidence? They clearly knew this would get huge media and some folks would “get it”

    • Old Line Democrat | March 8, 2017 5:58 AM at 5:58 AM |

      It was the Park Service part of Interior not police.
      That conspiracy thread is far too sophisticated for the mounted patrol.

  8. Zinke is nothing but yes man and minion to Trump. How he ever made the grade a Navy Seal is anybodies guess. Can’t be much of a sportsman, but one heke of a gun lobby toady.

  9. Thanks for lit Matthew on who supported this. Some could be expected but surprised by Ducks Unlimited.

    Recent article noting all bald eagles suffering from lead.


  10. Enough of the childish theatrics. I would have felt like an idiot taking this stupid ride. It’s embarrassing.

  11. Yes, I agree….”Why not side with groups like the Center for Biological Diversity?”

    See: Senators Daines, Tester Introduce Bill Weakening Protections for Endangered Species – Another Attempt to Overrule Courts and Slow Landscape-level Protections for Species from the Center for Biological Diversity


    And, also related, “Alternative facts from Tester and Daines”


    The February 25, 2015 Washington Post gave Senator Tester four Pinocchios, the paper’s highest rating for politicians misrepresenting the truth, when Tester asserted that “every logging sale” in the state was “under litigation” and “nearly half of the awarded timber volume in Fiscal Year 2014 is currently under litigation.”

    The Post’s renowned Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, found instead that “in 2014, the Forest Service’s Northern Region, which includes Montana, met its timber harvest goal for the first time in over 14 years. The region harvested 280 million board feet – enough to build nearly 10,000 homes.” Kessler added: “Given that Tester is the senior senator from Montana, his comments on litigation in Montana’s national forests are embarrassingly wrong. In both statements, he was wildly off the mark. He needs to brush up on his facts – and his math – before he opines again on the subject.”

    The Forest Service also met its timber harvest target again in 2015. I have not seen the amount of logging reported yet for 2016, but the Great Falls Tribune reported in February: “Logging in Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest best in decades.”

    Unfortunately for Montanans, Tester didn’t take Kessler’s advice and instead decided to emulate President Trump and douse us with “alternative facts.” In a press release, Tester, joined by Senator Daines, the National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, and a dozen logging and ranching groups, claimed that environmentalists have shut down logging not just in Montana but across the West.

    As the IR reported from Tester’s and Daines’ press release: “The Forest Service estimates 80 forest projects are on hold because of legal challenges based on the Cottonwood decision in Regions 1, 2 and 4. Region 1 challenges include the East Reservoir Restoration Project in the Kootenai National Forest and the Colt-Summit Restoration and Fuels Reduction Project in the Lolo National Forest.”

    But once again the truth, not Tester and Daines’ “alternative facts,” tells a different story.

    A total of four logging projects in lynx critical habitat are on hold over concerns for lynx critical habitat – which is a long ways from the 80 projects the senators claim. These are the East Reservoir Timber sale in the Kootenai National Forest, and the Bozeman Watershed, East Boulder, and Greater Red Lodge timber sales in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest.

    The Forest Service proposed clearcutting over 5,000 acres and bulldozing over 41 miles of new logging roads in lynx critical habitat with just these four timber sales, which is why they were challenged in court.

    Full Oped at: http://helenair.com/news/opinion/guest/alternative-facts-from-tester-and-daines/article_f1307717-611f-5c30-a8da-62ebccd6262a.html

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