Montana’s Labor and Conservation movements are inextricably tied together. From railroaders on the HI-Line who worked to conserve elk in the Missouri River Breaks, deer on the Milk and pheasants and grouse on the plains, to miners across western Montana who restored wildlife populations back from the market hunting days of the copper kings; from stream access laws to hunting on state lands, Labor supplied the strong backs and bright minds that conservation needed to be successful.
Mike Cooney’s been at the forefront of those fights since the 1970s, always leading us towards a better future. His leadership was clear when he was President of the Senate, Secretary of State and as Lieutenant Governor.
Up until the early 1990’s, Montanan’s couldn’t hunt or fish legally on state land. Mike’s hard work, along with his fellow Buttians, Tony Schoonen and Jack Atcheson Sr., as well as many other conservation heroes opened up millions of acres for hunting by finding a path forward on access to state lands that respected the rights and needs of lessees, while allowing Montanan’s to enjoy their own public lands.
In 1985, As President of the Senate, Mike Cooney was instrumental in getting Montana’s Stream Access law passed. His leadership and ability to bring together diverse viewpoints once again shone through, and created a law that has withstood assaults from various individuals, including Greg Gianforte and his running mate, Kristen Juras (a member of the Galt family).
As Lieutenant Governor, Mike Cooney worked to bridge divides whether they were part of the budget or policy bills. That work helped reduce the number of bad bills exponentially, and has resulted in major bi-partisan gains in conservation policy over the last 4 years.
Mike also knows what poorly developed projects can do to the land, and the people who live and work near them. He knows that elk, deer, pronghorn, grouse, trout and walleye all need clean, connected habitats to thrive. And most importantly, Mike Cooney knows that the same people who went into the mines to dig ore or dig coal in Colstrip were also the ones who volunteered to bring wildlife back from the brink by transporting elk and deer, and by creating programs such as Habitat Montana, Block Management.
He knows that poorly planned developments on places like the Smith River will ruin an iconic area that is beloved by all who call Montana home. He also knows that the people of White Sulphur Springs deserve to have good paying, union jobs.
There is a lot at stake this June in the vote for Democratic nominee for Governor. Mike Cooney has the background, the understanding and the experience to carry us through to another victory against someone like Greg Gianforte, who has vowed to end the programs that bring us increased access to public lands like Habitat Montana, Land Banking and who sued to eliminate access to the East Gallatin and has vowed to bring in anti-labor practices that harm middle-class Montanans.
Stepping in to the Governor’s office in January 2021 means starting at warp speed. Between rebuilding our economy, fighting a legislature that is keen to cut union jobs, services and pensions eliminating public involvement in wildlife management, while giving more handouts to millionaires and corporations, we need someone who doesn’t require on-the-job training to fight for Montanans. We need an experienced, calm and thoughtful leader like Mike Cooney.
Quint Nyman is a 23-year union member, chairman of the Montana Union Sportsman’s Alliance and an avid outdoorsman.
Ben Lamb is an avid angler and poor bird dog trainer who has worked in wildlife and public lands conservation for 20 years across the Western United States.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!