Earth Shakers: The Counter-Enviro Power List

Collin Peterson: Congressman (D-Minn.)

May 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

A former accountant who's represented northwestern Minnesota's rural Seventh District since 1990, Peterson, 60, was the sole Democrat listed in the League of Conservation Voters' 2004 "Dirty Dozen" roundup. The House Agriculture Committee's ranking Dem, Peterson earned this distinction for supporting ANWR drilling and endorsing the Bush administration's industry-friendly national energy plan. Peterson is representative of several Democrats who come from industry- or agriculture-based constituencies: Though he is conservative—"I vote right," he has said—he claims to act on behalf of the little guy, including his snowmobiling constituents.

Case in point is Peterson's high-profile environmental break with his party: leading the charge against a ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Although the proposed ban involved only 250 miles of closures—representing less than 2 percent of the 17,000-plus miles of designated trails throughout the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho—it became a flash point for the snowmobiling industry, which emerged as a major political force. As the battle extended into 2004, Peterson took to the House floor to praise Polaris and Arctic Cat—two manufacturers in his district that employ 3,500 people. He argued that the companies have spent millions on cleaner and quieter four-stroke engines and that their impact in Yellowstone paled next to the summertime cavalcade of cars and RVs. Last June, the proposed ban died in the House.

SOUND BITE: "The environmentalist view is that the only people who are going to protect the environment are bureaucrats," Peterson says in response to his critics. "The people who care most about the land are the people who live on it."

NEXT UP: Peterson recently introduced the Renewable Energy Production Incentive Reform and Reauthorization bill, which gives direct payments to nontaxable entities like rural electric utilities for generating renewable energy.

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