- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Republican U.S. House candidate Ryan Zinke proposed Wednesday that federal land-management decisions must be approved by local government officials.

Zinke’s proposal, which is part of his public-lands plan, would support better coordination between federal agencies and counties in decisions that affect access to public lands. Federal agencies must be directed to take land-management actions that benefit fishing, shooting sports and outdoor recreation, according to his plan.

“When the decision impacts a local community severely, then I think the federal government should be more sensitive to the local community,” Zinke said. “I think you should coordinate with them, look at the impact and I think you can come to an agreement.”

Although Montana Republicans have endorsed the move to transfer public lands under federal management to the state, Zinke doesn’t mention the idea in his plan. He told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he doesn’t support the idea.

“I just don’t see a path forward on it in any time soon on transfer of land (from federal to state). We should be focused on making sure federal government is managing land better,” Zinke said.

Zinke’s plan also mentions expanding access to public roads for snowmobiles and recreational off-highway vehicles. He wants to combat what he calls the abuse of federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act and opposes the expansion of habitat for grizzly bears and sage grouse without scientific evidence that it will improve populations.

When it comes to guns and public lands, Zinke said he supports existing state gun laws and believes the types of ammunition and guns that are appropriate should be determined at the state level.

Democrat John Lewis’ public-lands plan, released earlier this month, includes clear opposition to the transfer of public lands. “While the federal government can and must do a better job of managing Montana’s public lands, the idea that transferring those lands to the state will solve the problem is short-sighted and irresponsible,” he said.

Lewis supports the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, which would prevent new oil and gas development and mining while allowing continued forest management. He also backs the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, which would designate a conservation-management area and add nearly 70,000 acres to the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat wilderness. The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which sets aside Montana land for public use and designates land for timber harvest, is another piece of legislation backed by Lewis.

He supports legislation that would keep national parks and other federally managed lands open during government shutdowns.

Lewis would like to see more money for disaster relief and wildlife management as well as for maintenance at shooting ranges on public lands so Montanans can learn to shoot in a safe environment.

Both candidates support legislation that dedicates a portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to improve access to federal lands for hunting, fishing and recreation.

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