Interior Secretary Zinke wants to defund a vital land conservation program he supposedly supports

by Greg Zimmerman as published on Westwise

The secretary proposes draconian cuts to the Land & Water Conservation Fund

Whitefish Lake, Montana. LWCF funds helped secure the water supply in Ryan Zinke’s adopted hometown. Photo: Trust for Public Land via Land & Water Conservation Fund Coalition

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has turned his back on Montana, a state he represented in Congress until last year. The latest example is his proposed 2019 Interior Department budget, where the secretary proposes eliminating virtually all funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The premise of LWCF is simple: the United States invests a small portion (up to $900 million annually) of the revenue generated from offshore oil drilling into land conservation, outdoor recreation, and public lands access.

For any good politician from Montana, LWCF is like motherhood and apple pie. It’s one of those rare bipartisan programs that works because its impacts are widely felt by anyone who values protecting and enhancing access for hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping on America’s public lands. And in Montana, that’s virtually everyone.

Sen. Steve Daines, (R-MT):

“LWCF was created in the spirit of reinvesting the revenues from the sale of our national resources into future resources for all Americans — asset for asset.”

Sen. Jon Tester, (D-MT):

“I applaud every effort to increase recreational opportunities for Montanans and this money will go a long way towards doing that. LWCF is a critical boost to Montana’s economy, our western way of life, and our outdoor heritage.”

Rep. Greg Gianforte, (R-MT):

“I will also fight for the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help preserve and expand access for Montanans to hunt, fish, and recreate on public lands.”

Gov. Steve Bullock, (D-MT):

“[LWCF] has ensured that generations of Montanans had access to public lands and waterways that otherwise would be locked up. Montanans demand more from Washington.”

In today’s overheated political environment, you’d be hard-pressed to find a program with stronger and more intense bipartisan support than LWCF. But Interior Secretary Zinke — who is known to harbor future political aspirations in Montana — apparently missed the memo. He’s put forward a budget proposal that effectively zeroes out LWCF.

If Congress was to implement Secretary Zinke’s proposal — an improbability given the broad, bipartisan support for LWCF — important conservation projects would go unfunded, recreation areas could be lost to subdivisions, trophy homes could be built inside national parks like Zion and Glacier, and funds won’t be available to open up new hunting and fishing access on public lands. What’s more, Secretary Zinke’s proposal would leave states and local communities in the lurch, taking away a critical source of money for local recreation facilities, state parks, working forests, and wildlife protection programs…(CONTINUED)

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    Tribes Stand Their Ground for Grizzly Bears – and Us
    FEBRUARY 5, 2018


    Wyoming is the first Northern Rockies state to initiate a hunting season for grizzly bears in over 40 years. Yet hunting grizzlies is an anathema to 850,000 people who opposed removal of endangered species protections for Yellowstone grizzlies (“delisting”) in comments and petitions submitted last year to the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS). This represents about 99.99% of all comments received by the FWS.

    Notable scientists such as Jane Goodall, George Schaller, and E.O. Wilson, and scientific societies such as the American Society of Mammalogists and Society for Conservation Biology, also filed comments highly critical of the government’s plans to drop protections and open the door for state-sponsored trophy hunting. In fact, these experts were so passionate that I could not resist filming interviews with some of them (link).

    But what’s even more astonishing to me has been the tsunami of protest from Tribes, tribal traditional societies, and medicine men to the FWS’s removal of ESA protections. But this outpouring from the Tribes is consistent with unprecedented tribal opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), the Keystone pipeline, and, more recently, the decision to eviscerate national monument protections for Utah’s Bears Ears. In all these cases, Indians and non-Indians have united under the banner of protecting water, wildlife, and our sacred relationship with the earth.

    Although I have worked as an advocate for grizzly bears for more than thirty years, I have never seen anything like this tribal uprising. Because of their legitimacy and bipartisan nature, Tribes hold the promise of changing the dynamics surrounding a host of conservation issues in the West. (More on this later.)


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