Horse News

Rep. Raúl Grijalva Is Going to Make Ryan Zinke’s Life Hell in the Next Congress

by Paige Blankenbuehler as published on High Country News

A Democratic spitfire takes the helm of the House Committee on Natural Resources

Less than a week before the midterm elections, U.S. House Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D- Arizona, released a report detailing how the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, on which he has served for 14 years, stacked its hearings with industry interests. “Under Republican leadership,” he wrote, “hearings have disproportionally included witnesses who pad their profits by degrading public lands.”

Now that Democrats have won a majority in the House, Grijalva will have his chance, as the committee’s new chairman, to change the direction of the governing body that oversees federal lands and energy and water resources. Grijalva’s committee will also oversee and investigate the Interior Department, employing the system of checks and balances that Grijalva thinks his predecessors neglected.

Last week, High Country News spoke with Grijalva about his priorities and what his leadership could mean for climate change policies and resource management in the West. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

High Country News: As you assume chairmanship, what do you hope to do differently than (outgoing chairman) Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah)?

Raúl Grijalva: We have an opportunity to take this committee and its priorities and its policies and legislative initiatives and steer it in a different direction. Under our jurisdiction, we have issues that have to be dealt with — tribal sovereignty, education, health care, historical and cultural resource preservation.

The other issue is climate change. It touches every issue that we deal with, and the fossil-fuel extraction industries are making such a rush for resources in our public lands. This administration, in two years, has made every effort to suppress science and dumb down the issue of climate change. We want to elevate that again to the status it deserves in decision-making.

HCN: How will you do that?

RG: We will begin to look at ways in which our jurisdiction can help mitigate the effects of climate change. We’ll do that legislatively, by holding hearings and introducing policy initiatives. My committee will revisit all of the rules that have been changed by this administration that have to do with climate change and science, the Endangered Species Act, the Wilderness Act, and responsibility over our federal waters and waterways. The list goes on and on.

HCN: How effective can you realistically be in changing the direction of the committee? 

RG: The prerogatives of the current administration will limit our authority. With this administration, we have had no oversight hearings. Our request for accountability and inquiries for information have been ignored. But I’m going to re-establish a co-equal status.

I have a list of every inquiry the committee has made — many went unanswered by the Interior Department. We are going to send those inquiries again. We want answers to all of these questions. If we get the information, we proceed from there. If we are ignored again, we are in a realm where we need to use legal authority. We, as the majority, have options that we didn’t have as a minority. That includes subpoena.

HCN: How will you change the committee’s posture toward climate change and wildfire now that we’re seeing much longer fire seasons?

RG: There is no way to deny it. The planet is getting hotter, it is getting drier, and one of the things we need to do is confront the issue of these wildfires and other natural catastrophes that are happening — and confront them with the urgency that they demand. The president doesn’t think climate is the reason. That denial is embedded in Interior and this administration. We need to elevate the importance of addressing climate change.

Our response has been reactive. We have always dealt with the fire issue as a budgetary issue, and we should, but it’s more than that. The issue of climate change cannot be denied. We need to look at how we change building standards and where we decide it’s OK to build homes. In some cases, denial (of building permits) is a good thing.

HCN: How do you plan to handle the scandals and lawsuits facing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke?

RG: There are 14 Inspector General investigations looking into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Department of Justice is taking a look at him. (Editor’s note: So far, investigators have yet to confirm any wrongdoing.) At some point, those dogs start nipping at your heels. We’ve reached a point that Zinke needs to move on.

There’s no question that the extractive industries have had a free rein under Zinke. It’s no coincidence that Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was shrunk because of coal deposits. Bears Ears (National Monument) was shrunk because of nearby uranium deposits. The criteria of making decisions on how to best conserve and have a multi-use philosophy for our public lands and assets has been skewed in one direction and one direction only.

The extractive industries are protecting Zinke. He’s curried favor with them, and they are protecting him. He has a responsibility to protect the multi-use philosophy of the department. He’s failed. Resources are there not just for extraction.

5 replies »

  1. There’s a lot of ground to cover. Public Lands have been ravaged through countless administrations.

    Toxic Range: the BLM’s Growing Chemical Addiction
    APRIL 27, 2016

    As BLM was preparing the Weed EIS, it became embroiled in litigation with southern Idaho farmers over a crop catastrophe. BLM had ballyhooed DuPont’s Oust herbicide as a panacea for cheatgrass. Prominent range staff that had long pushed exotic forage plants as desirable on “rangelands” worked closely with DuPont to fine-tune the chemical.

    Oust kills plants by preventing roots from taking in water and nutrients from the soil.
    It did this splendidly when the wind blew herbicide-infested soil onto crop fields and poisoned the earth. After the farmers finally figured out what had happened, BLM declared an Oust moratorium. Prolonged litigation ensued, with over 66 days of testimony in federal court. A jury trial and verdict found BLM bore 40% responsible, and Dupont 60%. Damages of 17 million dollars were awarded to the farmers. But the District Court ruling was appealed, and reversed by the Ninth Circuit in 201l. Courthouse News described the long ago initial filing “a day late and 17 million dollars short”
    “Idaho farmers filed their complaint a day too late to collect damages from the government after their crops were caught in the crossfire of a federal agency’s herbicidal battle against non-native grass, the 9th Circuit ruled Thursday … The farmers’ claims against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are “forever barred,”.
    Oust affected so much ag land that damage was detected. Most of the spraying takes place in remoter wild places where drift effects could escape detection.

    Meanwhile, BLM kept on spraying, purposefully blind to weed causes. The 2007 Weed EIS blessed Plateau (Imazapic) as the new cheat panacea. Mowed and roller-chopped sage, prescribed burned forests and sage, and wildfire areas were doused with Plateau. It was applied over untold 100,000s of acres following fires. But there is still a hitch. Plateau kills “desirable” seedlings similar to Oust. So at the same time BLM has been spending tens of millions of dollars on seeding burned lands ostensibly for sage-grouse, it applied a potent lingering seedling killer. A scientist letter responding to BLM’s unprecedented 67 million dollar rehab boondoggle for the Soda Wildfire pointed out:

    East of the Cascades, 2,4-D, Dicamba, Fluroidone, Imazapic, Imazapir, Picloram could be sprayed aerially (note this is fewer chemicals than inflicted on the rest of the states aerially in the 2007 EIS). There is so-called “restricted” use of Chlorsulfuron, glyphosate, hexaninone, metsulfuron metyl, tebuthiuron “only where no other means available” … “where practical, limit glyphosate and hexaninone to spot applications”. Weasel word language is pervasive, providing leeway to wiggle out of promised protections.
    If livestock might eat the plants, BLM is to apply “at the typical rather than the maximum rate”, but no word on what to do about native ruminants
    “don’t apply some chemicals where wild horses are present, or herd them out of the area”.


    • So much for the vaunted “grass fed beef” grazing public lands. There is no testing or monitoring for these chemicals in their meat that I am aware of.

      Our public lands are being “managed” like private croplands with little evident concern for wildlife, watersheds or the public interest.

      I encourage everyone to listen in on the Wild Horse and Burro Radio Show posted here last week regarding FOIAS, as it also includes some chilling commentary on government agricultural policies throughout the country which are clearly pushing people off their land by various means. One of those is the extensive use of unnatural elements being released into our food chain. Cattle and sheep grazing on public lands are vaunted as being healthier for consumers, but as this report shows there is no accountability. BUYER BEWARE.

      Liked by 1 person

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