CASPER, Wyo. — With Wyoming’s United States Senator Mike Enzi set to retire, Republican Mark Armstrong is looking to fill that seat.
Armstrong currently lives in Centennial and is thinking a lot about the health of Wyoming’s forests.
“The forest is now in an unhealthy state,” Armstrong said on Monday, Aug. 26. “I haven’t heard a word from our delegation about making our forests healthy.”
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He was referring to beetle-kill trees in the forests, adding that these effects are highly noticeable in areas he used to hunt and fish as a kid.
“We need to go in and have men and women log,” Armstrong says, adding that not only would this help address the health of the forests, but would bring some jobs back to the state.
“In the Centennial Valley, there used to be at least three logging operations,” he says. “Now, there are none.”
Armstrong wants to “confront the left and the Green New Deal with science,” adding that he thinks actions from the political left are “beating up our industries.”
“It is an attack on our way of life,” he says. “The doomsday sayers have been saying that in 12 years, we’re done.”
He thinks that conservatives are losing the argument on climate change and thinks a scientific approach is the way to reverse that.
“We’re losing the argument,” he says. “We need to talk to them in a rational way.”
Armstrong says that climate change predates human activity. Focusing on the health of forests by bringing in more logging activities would help address some climate issues along with planting new trees.
“Planting one million hectares of trees will push emissions back to 1980s levels,” he says.
Armstrong is the great-grandson of former University of Wyoming football and basketball coach John Corbett, who is now in the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame.
Armstrong is a geologist and engineering, having attended the university himself. He has run the company “Earth Engineers” since 1992, he says.
His grandfather was a superintendent for the Albany County School District, he adds.
“I learned a lot from my grandfather,” Armstrong says, adding that his mother and an aunt were both teachers.
“We need good teachers,” he says. “That is so important.”
He says the emphasis on education should be finding good teachers and implementing a “well-rounded” education system, adding that this should be done while relying on a “lean administration.”
Armstrong says his uncle was a doctor and pushed “with all his soul” to get a medical school started at UW.
“We need more good doctors,” he says.
The university is an important aspect to Wyoming, according to Armstrong.
“It is one of the best geology schools in the country,” he says, adding that the engineering program is another strong point.
With the university turning out strong employees for the workforce, Armstrong says, “We need to keep that asset strong. The state doesn’t need to lose population.”
Addressing coal mine closures is something else Armstrong is thinking about, pointing to recent closures in Campbell County.
“It’s more than just the 600 [mining] jobs,” he says, pointing out that such jobs create many service-oriented jobs around them. “The cascading of losing jobs goes down that chain.”
He’s in favor of continued investment in carbon-capture technology, though he’d like to see more attention to logging along side this. Nuclear energy is another thing he’s in support of.
“We haven’t built a standard nuclear plant in 20-30 years,” Armstrong says. “We put them on submarines all the time. We can make them safe.”
Armstrong spent some time living out of the state, moving back in 2005. In the early 2000s, he says he served on the Alturas, California City Council.
He said highlights of his tenure there include preventing the construction of a prison near an elementary school and getting an ordinance in place to “properly fix potholes.”
Armstrong has been considering a U.S. Senate run for several years and decided to “when Enzi decided to retire.”
“It’s so hard to beat an incumbent,” he adds.
Armstrong says that the U.S. Constitution is not a living document.
“The founding fathers wanted citizens to represent citizens,” he says. “The idea that we have this little group of people running politics needs to change.”
“We’re not in an oligarchy, we’re a representative democracy.”
Housing is something else Armstrong is thinking about, adding that he’s driven all around the state and sees this as a critical need.
“It’s so hard for young men and women to buy homes and live the American dream anymore,” he says. “Government should be family friendly.”
Wyoming doesn’t get its fair share of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding, according to Armstrong. Federal mine-reclamation funding is another area he thinks Wyoming gets short-changed.
“I know the State of Wyoming doesn’t get its fair share back,” he says. “It is a problem when you are such a low population.”
He’d like to see lawsuits against the State of Washington for closing access to ports to to ship coal to China pushed more strongly and quickly.
“We need to push that lawsuit faster,” he says.
Balancing the rights of the public to access public lands with the needs of ranchers is something else on Armstrong’s mind.
“In the West, there are six million acres that the public can’t use,” he says. “It’s public land you can’t get on.”
He says much of that land offers good hunting opportunities, but that forcing ranchers to open up land via easements needs to take into account that the lands “are also a great resource to the rancher.”
“It is a difficult question and I haven’t come up with a position on it yet,” Armstrong says. “I would like to see public land with public access.”
Public lands are an asset to Wyoming’s tourism economy, he adds.
Armstrong thinks there are more manufacturing opportunities in the state, pointing to arms manufacturer Weatherby, Inc. decision to move to Sheridan.
“There are other opportunities like that,” he says.
Armstrong has two children, one is a carpenter and he has a daughter who is attending school at San Jose State studying animation.
He says he prayed about his decision to run for the Senate seat, adding that he knows it will take a lot of work.
“You have to fight, day in and day out,” Armstrong says. “I think I have something to offer the state.”
Armstrong and Cynthia Lummis are the two Republicans who have announced they will run for the Senate seat in 2020.