The Truth About Zinke’s Record: More Drones, Less Privacy, Less Access to Public Lands
(Helena, Mont.)--Fresh documents reveal former super-PAC chairman, Ryan Zinke has a record of trying to increase surveillance of private citizens by drones while closing off public lands.
Before he founded and ran a dark money super-PAC, Ryan Zinke worked extensively in the drone industry—partnering with them as a State Senator—pushing for greater access to Montana skies for unmanned aircrafts. Zinke’s support for expanding drone surveillance of private citizens was something fellow Republican, Matt Rosendale, called him out on during the primary.
While running for Lt. Governor, Zinke pushed for less access to public lands, supporting a plan to transfer federal lands to the state control. Recent reports show transferring federal lands to the state would result in a sell off of public lands.
Zinke thought Montana’s pristine skies would be the perfect place for drones to start performing nonmilitary activities. He was the co-director of the Unmanned Aerial Systems Center of Excellence, a group that tried to spearhead the effort to open Montana’s skies to drones.
“Senator Zinke wants Montanans to have less access to Big Sky Country, but he wants surveillance drones to have more access to Montana’s big skies,” said Bryan Watt, a Montana Democratic Party spokesperson. “Zinke’s donors in Texas might support selling off our public lands, high fence hunting and drones spying on citizens, but that just won’t fly in Montana.”
Zinke’s Support of Drones:
· Zinke's Company Pushed for State and Local Government to Buy Drone Technology. Zinke’s company developed drone technology for government and business use. "Possible applications for state and local governments extend beyond law enforcement, said Ryan Zinke, 50, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL and now a Republican state senator from Whitefish, Montana. Drones can be used to monitor forest fires or inspect water resources or other assets, said Zinke who said he saw the potential while still in military service." [Bloomberg,5/30/12]
· Ryan Zinke Wanted To Use Drones to Monitor Private Farmland. "The 'military-centric industry' will transition into the public and private sector. It will be able to help with crop optimization, pinpoint forest insect infestations such as beetle kill, where fertilizer is needed, and reveal snow density in the mountains. Anther possible use is counting wolves,' Zinke said.” [Missoulian,12/13/10]
· Zinke Tried to Fill Montana Airspace with Drones. Zinke said “We want to be part of the discussion on how to integrate (drones) into the National Airspace System without impacting general aviation. Montana contains the largest military operations air space in the lower 48 (states),” and that "we're attempting to use our air space, the Big Sky, to bring an emerging industry into Montana. This is an enormous industry that is on the verge of occurring… Montana's air space is the perfect environment to research how to safely integrate (drones) with commercial and private air traffic."[Missoulian, 12/13/10]