Conservation politics in Big Sky country and beyond
He's just 30 years old, but Clayton Elliott has already made a significant mark on environmental policy in the American West. He's run a congressional campaign, lobbied the state legislature on behalf of major conservation and stakeholder groups, and served as state policy director for the Montana Wilderness Association. Today, he's bringing his strong background in grassroots organizing and political advocacy to bear as executive director of Montana Conservation Voters. "Our unique role is to hold elected officials accountable and to help elect pro-conservation public officials who champion our clear air, clean water, and open space," Elliott said. Born and raised in Powell, Wyoming, Elliott feels hometown affinity for Big Sky Country. Powell is just shy of the Montana border with Billings as its nearest big city, and Elliott's fascination with the West grew as he explored the Bighorn and Wind River mountain ranges in his not-too-long-ago youth. “We’re lucky to live in Montana. Our abundance of riches in public land, wild country, and big sky provide a daily reminder of what’s at stake in our work," Elliott said. "To protect these special places, who we elect matters." Montana Conservation Voters just led a $1.4 million campaign to successfully reelect Governor Steve Bullock, primarily by talking with voters about public lands, conservation, and stream access. The organization's latest initiative comes with President Donald Trump's nomination of U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as the next Secretary of the Interior. Zinke’s lifetime score with the League of Conservation Voters stands at just 3 percent and includes votes against mining, forestry, and oil and gas development protections. “It’s a critical time for conservation advocacy not just in Montana, but across the country," Elliott said. "Turning our priorities into the priorities of federal leaders is a difficult — but imperative — challenge for our generation of environmental leadership.” Photo courtesy of the Bob Wick, BLM.