The Damage Done by Trump’s Department of the Interior

by Elizabeth Kolbert as published in The New Yorker

Under Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, it’s a sell-off from sea to shining sea.

“Killing Innocent Animals is KOOL!” ~ Dinky Zinke

On his first day as Secretary of the Interior, last March, Ryan Zinke rode through downtown Washington, D.C., on a roan named Tonto. When the Secretary is working at the department’s main office, on C Street, a staff member climbs up to the roof of the building and hoists a special flag, which comes down when Zinke goes home for the day. To provide entertainment for his employees, the Secretary had an arcade game called Big Buck Hunter installed in the cafeteria. The game comes with plastic rifles, which players aim at animated deer. The point of the installation, Zinke has said, is to highlight sportsmen’s contribution to conservation. “Get excited for #hunting season!” he tweeted, along with a photo of himself standing next to the game, which looks like a slot machine sporting antlers.

Nowadays, it is, in a manner of speaking, always hunting season at the Department of the Interior. The department, which comprises agencies ranging from the National Park Service to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, oversees some five hundred million acres of federal land, and more than one and a half billion acres offshore. Usually, there’s a tension between the department’s mandates—to protect the nation’s natural resources and to manage them for commercial use. Under Zinke, the only question, from the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters, is how fast these resources can be auctioned off.

One of Zinke’s first acts, after dismounting from Tonto, was to overturn a moratorium on new leases for coal mines on public land. He subsequently recommended slashing the size of several national monuments, including Bears Ears, in Utah, and Gold Butte, in Nevada, and lifting restrictions at others to allow more development. (In December, acting on these recommendations, President Donald Trump announced that he was cutting the area of the Bears Ears monument by more than three-quarters and shrinking the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument, also in Utah, by almost half.) Zinke has also proposed gutting a plan, years in the making, to save the endangered sage grouse; instead of protecting ten million acres in the West that had been set aside for the bird’s preservation, he’d like to see them given over to mining. And he’s moved to scrap Obama-era regulations that would have set more stringent standards for fracking on federal property.

All these changes have been applauded by the oil and gas industries, and many have also been praised by congressional Republicans. (Before Zinke became Interior Secretary, he was a one-term congressman from Montana.) But, to some members of the G.O.P., Zinke’s recent decision to open up great swaths of both coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling represents a rig too far.

Last week, Zinke backtracked. Following a brief meeting with the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, at the Tallahassee airport, the Secretary said that he was removing that state’s coastal waters “from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.” The move was manifestly political. In the past, Scott has supported drilling for oil just about everywhere, including in the Everglades, but, with Trump’s encouragement, he is now expected to challenge Florida’s senior senator, Bill Nelson, a Democrat, in November.

“Local voices count” is how Zinke explained the Florida decision to reporters, a remark that was greeted with jeers from elected officials in other states, who noted that some “local voices” were more equal than others. “Virginia’s governor (and governor-elect) have made this same request, but we have not received the same commitment,” Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, tweeted. “Wonder why.” Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics, noted that the Florida coast happens to be home to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s winter White House cum dues-collecting club. He suggested that the Secretary “look up ‘banana republic’ ” and then “go fly a Zinke flag to celebrate making us one.”…(CONTINUED)

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/22/the-damage-done-by-trumps-department-of-the-interior/amp?__twitter_impression=true

10 comments on “The Damage Done by Trump’s Department of the Interior

  1. Conflicts of Interest Swamp the Department of Interior
    While his fellow Cabinet members struggle to fill key positions, Ryan Zinke is staffing the Interior with former lobbyists for oil and gas companies.
    by Jeff Turrentine
    December 01, 2017

    One of the ways that our commander in chief got elected was by pledging to “drain the swamp” of Washington, D.C. The promise conjured images of special interests being suctioned out of the corridors of power, sluicing down the National Mall into the Tidal Basin and ultimately out to sea.
    This promise has been not just broken but shattered. Look no further than the halls of the U.S. Department of the Interior, where 13 former lobbyists for the oil and gas industry are now employed. A partial tally of these newly minted officials, published by the Center for Investigative Reporting, suggests a Cabinet-level department that is heading in the wrong direction
    .
    Reports of dysfunction in other Cabinet-level departments-State, Education, Energy, HUD, take your pick-are frightening because they suggest that these agencies’ respective leaders are in over their heads and have lost the ability to manage their teams (assuming they ever had that ability).
    At the Department of the Interior, by contrast, the fear is that Zinke and his swampy staff of ex-lobbyists know exactly what they’re doing.

    https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/conflicts-interest-swamp-department-interior

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  2. As it said in the article, “the destruction of the country’s last unspoiled places is a loss that can never be reversed.”
    What will our future generations think about us when they realized that we allowed this destruction to happen right under our noses? Very sad for us and for future generations and for our country and for our planet.

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  3. BLM land sale raises $145,000
    December 22, 2017 By The Ely Times

    Bureau of Land Management Ely District, Caliente Field Office on Monday, Dec. 18, sold at public auction one parcel of agency-administered land totaling 143.7 acres to Hiko Hay and Cattle, LLC, of Lincoln County, Nev., for $145,000.

    For more information, contact Susan Grande, BLM Ely District realty specialist, at (775) 289-1800 or sgrande@blm.gov.

    http://www.elynews.com/2017/12/22/blm-land-sale-raises-145000/

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  4. Ely/Lincoln County
    BLM seeks public comment on wild horse gather plan
    December 22, 2017

    ELY-The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public review and comment on a plan to gather wild horses for up to ten years in the Seaman and White River Herd Areas, which are located southwest of Ely, Nevada, in Lincoln and Nye counties.

    The Wild Horse Gather Plan Preliminary Environmental Assessment is being conducted by the BLM Ely District’s Bristlecone and Caliente Field Offices, and Basin and Range National Monument and will be available for public review and comment for 30 days. The 30-day public comment period concludes Monday, Jan. 22, 2018.

    The BLM is proposing to gather and remove all excess wild horses in and outside herd area boundaries. The Proposed Action is needed to improve watershed health and make significant progress towards achieving range health standards recommended by the BLM’s Mojave / Southern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council. The proposed gather plan would allow for an initial gather with follow-up gathers for up to 10 years from the date of the initial gather. The plan calls for transporting gathered horses to holding facilities where they would be offered for adoption.

    Substantive comment submission will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. All comments received during the public comment period will be fully considered and evaluated for preparation of the Final PEA. Questions and written comments should be directed to:Bureau of Land Management Ely District Office Attention: Ruth Thompson, Wild Horse and Burro Specialist702 N. Industrial Way, Ely, NV 89301 Comments can also be submitted electronically at blm_nv_eydo_seaman_white_river_ea@blm.gov. Email messages should include “Seaman-White River Herd Areas Wild Horse Gather” in the subject line.
    http://www.elynews.com/2017/12/22/blm-seeks-public-comment-wild-horse-gather-plan-2/

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  5. This is what I feared for your own environment but interesting to know that politicians can be swayed by local opinion. Our dear prime minister Teresa May has just backtracked on fox hunting. It is the one conservative policy people remember from our last general election and it could have cost her the majority she needed. The environment and protecting it can be fought across party lines. Good luck.

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    • How telling is it that the Re-Wilding projects are happening in several countries in Europe? And at the same time in the US – we are on a fast track to eradicating so many of our native animals – both predators and prey. Yeah – caring for & protecting our environment can and has to be fought across party lines. Before its too late.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope you can do it over there. I love the photos of birds and other nature news I get so feel connected and disturbed by the story that doesn’t seem to get to headline news.

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  6. Stewart’s Trojan Horse would make hunting and livestock grazing core purposes on public lands:

    “But a reading of the bill, H.R. 4558, reveals it as a Trojan horse, appearing as a gift to the public while eroding federal environmental protections on public lands. If it becomes law, the bill could set a precedent with enormous consequences nationally, all of them bad for the national parks and the park service, which celebrates its 102nd birthday this August. It is, in fact, a model for the piecemeal unraveling of the more than 400 national parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, recreation areas and other places in the park system.

    Start with the proposed management hierarchy. The park would be run under the flag of the park service, but control would be vested in a “management council” that would be unlike any other bureaucracy overseeing any national park today.

    This would place control of a national park — owned by all Americans — in the hands of local politicians whose agenda is decidedly local. The National Parks Conservation Association, an advocacy group for the park system, contends the legislation would “undermine the meaning and value of a national park” and says that local officials in the two counties “have a well-documented distrust of federal land managers.”

    To underscore the interests this bill promotes, consider that the legislation would elevate hunting and the grazing of livestock to core purposes of the park. Livestock grazing, an ecologically destructive use of public lands, would be allowed “in perpetuity.” This hardly seems to accord with the Organic Act of 1916, the Park Service’s enabling legislation: “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.'”

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