Along with Wanting to Slaughter America’s Wild Horses and Burros, Ryan Zinke is Erasing ‘Public’ from Lands He’s Meant to Guard

as published in The Seattle Times

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s actions show his priority is to fossil-fuels companies and whether they will be able to profitably access the public lands they’ve long relied on for cheap natural resources.

‘Dinky’ Zinke, “I’ve had a hankering to slaughter those wild horses and burros for years. Just check my past record, it speaks for itself you turkeys.”

Shortly after taking office in March, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke declared his department would work on increasing access to America’s public lands. This sounded laudable — of course it should be easier for Americans to visit and enjoy our forests, mountains, deserts and rivers. But there was a catch: Secretary Zinke wasn’t really interested in making it easier for families to visit our public lands, only in greasing the skids for the industries that exploit those same lands.

Last week the National Park Service announced it intends to raise the entrance fees at the 17 most popular national parks to $70 per vehicle starting next year. This would almost triple the entry fee to Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks, the two parks in our state that would be impacted. The price of a weeklong entry pass for a noncommercial vehicle would go up to an astounding $70 under the proposal, from the current $25.

This proposal, if implemented, will be a de facto barrier to entry for many of us wishing to visit some of the country’s grandest landscapes. National Parks visitation already skews whiter and older than the general population. The Interior Department has acknowledged this must change if our national park system is to remain relevant. But raising entrance fees by 180 percent will only further skew the demographics of park visitation.

Two other moves by Zinke show he is worried whether fossil fuels companies will be able to profitably access the public lands they’ve long relied on for cheap natural resources.

Back in March, Zinke rescinded the federal moratorium on coal leases on public land. The halt had no effect on existing coal leases or mining but prohibited the Interior Department from offering new leases. The moratorium had been put in place last year by Sally Jewell, the previous Interior Secretary under President Barack Obama, so that the department could evaluate coal’s impact on climate change (40 percent of U.S. coal comes from public lands).

Zinke, however, scoffed at the notion of a societal cost of carbon and claimed the moratorium was unnecessary. He quickly cleared this impediment to coal companies’ access to the resource under public lands.

Then, in August, he repealed an Obama administration rule that ended a scam coal, oil and gas companies had long relied on to make deceitfully small royalty payments to the federal treasury.

The rule put an end to the practice of these companies extracting natural resources from public lands, selling the resources to affiliated companies at artificially small markups, and then having the affiliates resell the materials at a substantially higher price. Royalties paid to the public were calculated on the low initial sales price to the affiliates rather than on the price of the resource on the open market.

After receiving “numerous comments from the regulated community,” Zinke repealed the rule. Fossil-fuels companies can once again shortchange the public out of its royalties.

What truly rankles about Zinke’s selective concern for public-lands access is that the additional revenues raised from jacking up park entrance fees would be more than lost by canceling the rule that had fixed the royalty scam. Interior estimates higher entrance fees would raise an additional $70 million, while Taxpayers for Common Sense has calculated lost annual revenue from reopening the royalty loophole at $75 million.

We can expect to see more examples of this one-sided concern for public lands access. Last month came reports that President Donald Trump will follow through on Zinke’s recommendation to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. Shrinking the monuments would open up additional public lands to fossil-fuels development while doing nothing to make those lands more accessible to the general public.

Be aware, when Zinke talks of improving public access to federal lands, he has an extremely narrow subset of the public in mind.

 What can we do? The good news is there’s still time for the public to fight back the proposed fee increase, as the National Park Service is taking comments until Nov. 23. More broadly, Congress needs to prohibit the Department of the Interior from giving special access to the fossil-fuels industries through rules that enable and encourage profiteering on our public lands.

20 comments on “Along with Wanting to Slaughter America’s Wild Horses and Burros, Ryan Zinke is Erasing ‘Public’ from Lands He’s Meant to Guard

  1. These are just many of the “projects & goals” from this administration – being pushed thru with NO objections from Congress while we and they are all focused on tweets & Repub. repeated “repeal” & tax cuts for the richer among us. Lots being done on the “down-low”! Much of it missed by the general public, it seems! Where is mainstream media now?

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  2. This is my comment on the NPS document:
    Of course, US taxpaying citizens don’t want this kind of increase! For many people, this is the only way they can get close to nature. Regardless of what this “administration” assumes – wildlife, its habitat & the natural environment are important to all of us. This attempt to prevent ordinary everyday people from enjoying nature in order to allow more & more fossil fuel destruction is shameful. It is apparent that Zinke & his co-horts only have one goal – to put every bit of our public (OUR PUBLIC) lands in danger from coal mines, oil & gas drilling & gold & copper mines – all so that they may enjoy yet more profit & perks available to them. Well, as a US citizen and taxpayer – this is MY public land – whether or not I ever get to see & walk on it. Knowing its there & wild & free like the wildlife that lives on it is a wonderful feeling. Frankly, the people who only know one way of existing – to destroy all other ways – they need to GO. I don’t presume to know exactly WHAT Congress is doing – it seems nothing at all. Just fighting at windmills & losing! I know there are decent & honorable human beings that represent us in DC – somewhere? They need to get up & DO something before this entire country is eaten up by “the swamp”! Do you all realize that tourists don’t go places to see mines or drilling rigs or COWS – they go to see natural wonders, wildlife like wild horses, mule deer, elk, wolves, mountain lions – these are natural wonders & natural resources! If this kind of greedy profit-grabbing attempts are successful – whats left?

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  3. So, will each cow also be required to pay $70/day to visit a National Park?

    “More than a dozen of America’s national parks carry “grandfather clauses” that allow privately owned beef cattle to eat and trample national park resources while their owners pay just a token fee to lease these grazing privileges from the National Park Service. …The impacts of grazing inside national parks include degradation of wildlife habitat, pollution of streams and rivers with cattle urine and feces, the spread of invasive plant species, and trampling of Native American archaeological sites. Park Service officials are denied permission to reintroduce native predators, such as wolves and cougars, to protect the economic interests of surrounding ranching communities, while beef cattle that were never part of the natural landscape freely browse parks.

    As one national park superintendent told us, “There are commercial beef cattle in the park right now eating endangered plants that, if you dug one up, I’d arrest you for it.”

    A 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study (PDF) revealed that the National Park Service spends $410,000 per year to accommodate commercial beef cattle production inside our national parks, especially in the arid western states. The minimal fees the Park Service is allowed to charge not only fall short of fees ranchers pay to lease neighboring private lands, but also fail to cover the parks’ expenses in restoring trampled stream beds, controlling non-native species, and repairing park fences felled by wandering bovines. In Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah, for example, ranchers pay $1.35 per month for a cow and calf to graze on national park lands. By contrast, a human camper pays $300 per month to camp in the park, and few of them feast on the park’s vegetation.”

    https://www.npca.org/articles/83-commercial-beef-cattle-in-america-s-national-parks-are-you-serious

    http://www.gao.gov/assets/100/94025.pdf

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  4. Just Raise Welfare Ranchers rates and it would cover everything for all thepark and not raise their fees. Oh right, cuz that will cost at least 2 million in Public Defenders office fees to defend the tutoring racists who refuse to pay their fees at all.

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    • Louie – watched a little over 2 hours of the testimony! Republicans for – Democrats against! Will watch the rest tomorrow. Have to say Senator Franken never disappoints!!
      Would like (sort of) to see the same kind of debate regarding our wild horses & burros.

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      • Also Maggie, did you see how the Tribes are divided…almost pitted against each other? I have a feeling that we don’t know the whole story there either.

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      • Yes I saw that – also that the gentleman who was against drilling speaking about the corporations – not a tribe. He was sharp & very well spoken – and CARED ! And we probably don’t know the whole story – the lieutenant-gov. was also a native of Alaska. I think the problem is that they haven’t got much of an economy of their own – and depend on fossil fuel! Has to be hard to find a way off from it.

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      • Watched the rest this am -impressed by Sen. Murkowski – unfortunately shes very persuasive for developing the 1002 at ANWR. Cant imagine this will come out against drilling the 1002. Probably a foregone conclusion. Since it appears all Repub are for it & Dems are against! Seems the whole point is to push this thru by the 13th so Zinke can make it go forward!

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      • Maggie, the core of the problem for all of the Tribes could be the fact that they are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior/Bureau of Indian Affairs?
        Is this the man that you watched? In another part of the program he said to the committee “You don’t have anything we want”.

        Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Exploration
        Member Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Government
        https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4689486/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-exploration

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      • Yes, Louie – Sam Alexander – who graduated West Point & was a green beret! I really enjoyed listening to him – and that was his point – saying exactly what is it that we will get out of this that we want or need! I’m afraid this will be pushed thru – no matter what. Big rush too to give Trump a “win” – I’m thinking.

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  5. Since I don’t live in the West and haven’t visited for a few years, I don’t know what percentage of ranchers are small family farmers or larger, almost corporate level cattle ranchers. I remember one would be wild horse advocate complaining that there wasn’t much left for small operations as many had left. There is no reason that corporate ranchers should not be paying higher grazing rates. I know raising healthy animals requires veterinary care and supplies of hay and grain,, but people who raise cattle on private land do this all the time. Of course, ranchers argue that it takes so much land to raise cattle, which is true because the truth is the grasses that grow naturally in the West are far better suited to horses than cows. Cows need lots of soft, low grasses while horses are able to eat the dry, sticky grass. They were the species that evolved with these grasses along with deer, some species of sheep, mule deer, reindeer, and many other herbivores such as mammoths, camels, and others. Cattle evolved in Africa and then moved into norther Africa, Eastern Asia, and Europe.

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  6. If someone wants to raise cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, horses, and other grazing animals, the grass in the East is much better suited than that in the West. The grass is so rich, it is hard to keep weight off of horses, and cows fatten up well. However, the West is special and for families whose families are fifth or sixth generation, leaving the range would be tough. It just seems unfair to dishonest not to state the obvious and that is that since it takes more land to graze cattle, and there are many areas on public land that are suited to sheep, goats, and horses rathe than cows and pigs, it is inherently unfair to give so much land at so low a price to public lands ranchers. I grew up where coal was the economy, and an area in the same state where there were no mines but many large farms. Therefore, its frustrating to see the threat that the ranching industry presents to our wild horses. Mining should not be aa much oF an issue since there has been a long history of asses and horses working around mine sites.

    During past administrations, the permits for mining coal, rare Earth elements, metals, as well as coal, oil, and natural gas, often went to people who were connected to the administration, leaving some American companies out of the mix. In the East, you have to own the land that the mine is on—everything is privately owned, but in the West it seems one has to be a friend of someone who has influence or be an influencer.

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  7. One of the reforms that would really help the West is if the BLM was required to hire people who had a degree in land, soil, and water management. People coming out of some Ag schools really understand the tools that farmers and extension service personnel have available to keep land and water healthy. It does require hard work and doing certain activities at the right time of the year or on a schedule. But having someone running a land management agency with an idea about which species are complementary would keep land healthier. Also, it seems like people are much better producers and care takers when they understand animal husbandry—-something that appears to be lacking in these ranchers.

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  8. PUBLIC LANDS NOT REALLY FOR THE PUBLIC ANYMORE

    The US Department of the Interior’s new four year strategic plan calls for maximizing fossil fuel extraction from public lands, according to a version leaked to The Nation reporter Adam Federman. Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is part of the plan. That document also has no mention of climate change or climate science. Adam Federman tells host Steve Curwood that the strategic plan is part of the Trump Administration’s larger effort to secure America’s “energy dominance”, and reveals a new agency objective: policing the US-Mexico border.

    FEDERMAN: Well, the heart of the blueprint, the strategic plan for the next five years, is oil and gas drilling, not surprising, and really the speeding up of everything that goes into opening up public lands for development. And it’s also important to note that this is happening against the backdrop of an aggressive regulatory rollback. So, on the one hand, you’ve got the aggressive push to open up both on- and offshore leasing and then the rollback of what many consider to be common sense, even modest, environmental protections.

    …there’s always a section on utilizing our natural resources, you know, in every strategic plan, this one is no different in that regard, and in fact this is a blueprint that covers everything from outdoor recreation, tribal and insular responsibilities and generating revenue and using public land to produce energy. However, you know, this is in the context of an administration that has pushed for what they’re calling energy dominance, and, you know, we’re just beginning to see what that really means and what it means is that they are essentially offering up anything and everything onshore and offshore.

    We have upcoming lease sales in December in Utah, New Mexico and several other western states in which they are just putting everything on the table. The BLM used to defer a lot of acreage, in fact, when it was in areas that were considered sensitive because of endangered species or critical habitat, and they seem to be not doing that at all anymore, so they’re offering, for example, in Nevada something like 400,000 acres, and this is a state where the industry has shown relatively little interest in oil and gas production, so they’re throwing everything at the wall, and industry will have its chance to take what it wants.

    http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=17-P13-00044&segmentID=2

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  9. Maybe all these politicians and our president think THEY can eat, drink, and breathe hundred dollar bills; but, the rest of us would like to keep clean air, pure water, and NON-GMO food to eat. . they are DESTROYING the Earth and our Ability for Life to Continue on it. . stupid politicians: even the space stations rely on the Earth to exist: and how awful it must be to live on one of those……

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Maybe all these politicians and our president think THEY can eat, drink, and breathe hundred dollar bills; but, the rest of us would like to keep clean air, pure water, and NON-GMO food to eat. . they are DESTROYING the Earth and our Ability for Life to Continue on it. . stupid politicians: even the space stations rely on the Earth to exist: and how awful it must be to live on one of those……

    Liked by 1 person

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