Final Alert – Now is the Time Wild Horses Need Your Help the Most


by Carol J. Walker, Dir. of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Wild Family in Salt Wells Creek before being rounded up

Right now, Congress is working on the 2018 Spending Bill that will determine the fate of wild horses and burros in the United States. This wild horse family above which was rounded up in October in addition to the 45,000 other wild horses currently held in holding facilities imminently face possible killing or slaughter.

Your Representatives and Senators, who are supposed to be representing you, need to hear from you right now to make sure that wild horses and burros remain protected from killing and slaughter once the spending bill is voted upon and becomes final.

Please call your Senators and Representatives and tell them:

“Please work with leadership in Congress to make sure that the final 2018 spending bill protects America’s wild horses and burros from mass killing and slaughter. Please protect wild horses and burros and work to humanely manage them on our public lands. Please do not allow horse slaughter plants to be opened in the United States.”

Contact Your Senators:

Contact Your Representatives:

Thank you.

Carol Walker

To find out more about Wild Horse Freedom Federation and our work to keep wild horses and burros wild and free on our public lands visit

Donate Here:

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)

View story at

Sec. of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, withholds info from lawmakers while launching massive overhaul of the Department of the Interior

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz and Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Va., “sent Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke a letter on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, accusing Zinke of withholding key information from lawmakers while launching a massive overhaul of his department. The letter demanded that Zinke freeze the reorganization until he provides more information to Congress, which has the final say over the plan.”

FILE–In this Feb. 9, 2018, file photo,U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks during an conservation announcement at the Western Conservation and Hunting Expo Friday in Salt Lake City. On Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, the Interior Department released budget documents showing Zinke plans to press ahead with a massive overhaul of his department, including a plan to relocate some officials from Washington to the West and creating a new organizational map that mostly ignores state boundaries. Rick Bowmer, file AP Photo
Interior to implement massive overhaul despite criticism

The big public land sell-out

(BLM photo by John Ciccarelli)


“The Interior secretary is running a de facto privatization scheme.”

The big public land sell-out

Even without wholesale land transfers, public lands are already being conveyed to industry.

by Jonathan Thompson

Next month, hundreds of corporate representatives will sit down at their computers, log into something called Energynet, and bid, eBay style, for more than 300,000 acres of federal land spread across five Western states. They will pay as little as $2 per acre for control of parcels in southeastern Utah’s canyon country, Wyoming sage grouse territory and Native American ancestral homelands in New Mexico.

Even as public land advocates scoff at the idea of broad transfers of federal land to states and private interests, this less-noticed conveyance continues unabated. It is a slightly less egregious version of the land transfers that state supremacists, Sagebrush Rebels and privatization advocates have pushed for since the 1970s.

Read the rest of this excellent article HERE.

Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster.

Action Alert: Forest Service attempting to bypass public involvement

The Forest Service is proposing NEPA procedural changes which are supposedly to “increase efficiency,” but may in fact be a way for them to skirt public involvement processes.   The public comment period closes on 02/02.  You need to comment if you want your voice to be heard in the future.   Tell them that public involvement processes should NOT be reduced or eliminated.

SOURCE:  Forest Service


Forest Service, USDA.


Advance notice of proposed rulemaking; request for comment.


The Forest Service is proposing to revise its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures with the goal of increasing efficiency of environmental analysis. This will help the Forest Service implement its core mission by increasing the health and productivity of our Nation’s forests for the benefit of all Americans, and in turn foster productive and sustainable use of National Forest System lands. The Agency’s NEPA procedures are a key component of its overall environmental analysis and decision-making process. The Agency is seeking comments from the public on ways it can achieve the goals of increased efficiency of environmental analysis.


Comments must be received in writing by February 2, 2018.


Please submit comments via one of the following methods:

1. Public participation portal (preferred): https://cara.ecosystem-​Public/​ CommentInput?​project=​ORMS- 1797.

2. Mail: NEPA Services Group, c/o Amy Barker; USDA Forest Service, Geospatial Technology and Applications Center, 2222 West 2300 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84119.

3. Email: nepa-procedures-

All comments, including names and addresses when provided, are placed in the record and are available for public inspection and copying. The public may inspect comments received online via the public reading room at https://cara.ecosystem-​Public/​ ReadingRoom?​project=​ORMS- 1797, or at U.S. Forest Service, Ecosystem Management Coordination, 201 14th St. SW, 2 Central, Washington, DC 20024. Visitors are encouraged to call ahead to (202) 205-1475 to facilitate entry to the building.


Jim Smalls; Assistant Director, Ecosystem Management Coordination; 202-205-1475. Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday.



The Forest Service is proposing to revise its NEPA procedures (including its regulations at 36 CFR part 220, Forest Service Manual 1950, and Forest Service Handbook 1909.15) with the goal of increasing efficiency of environmental analysis. The Agency will continue to hold true to its commitment to deliver scientifically based, high-quality analysis to decision makers that honors its environmental stewardship responsibilities while maintaining robust public participation. These values are at the core of the Forest Service mission.

Reforming the Forest Service’s NEPA procedures is needed for a variety of reasons. An increasing percentage of the Agency’s resources are spent each year to provide the necessary resources for wildfire suppression, resulting in fewer resources available for other management activities such as restoration. In 1995, fire made up 16 percent of the Forest Service’s annual appropriated budget. In 2017, more than 50 percent of the Forest Service’s annual budget will be dedicated to wildfire. Along with this shift in resources, there has also been a corresponding shift in staff, with a 39 percent reduction in all non-fire personnel since 1995. Additionally, the Agency has a backlog of more than 6,000 special use permits awaiting completion, and over 80 million acres of National Forest System land are in need of restoration to reduce the risk of wildfire, insect epidemics, and forest diseases.

Increasing efficiency of environmental analysis will enable the Agency to complete more projects needed to increase the health and productivity of our national forests and grasslands. The Agency’s goal is to complete project decision making in a timelier manner, to improve or eliminate inefficient processes and steps, and where appropriate increase the scale of analysis and the amount of activities authorized in a single analysis and decision. Improving the efficiency of environmental analysis and decision making will enable the agency to ensure lands and watersheds are sustainable, healthy, and productive; mitigate wildfire risk; and contribute to the economic health of rural communities through use and access opportunities.

Agency NEPA Procedures

Each Federal agency is required to develop NEPA procedures that supplement the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations and reflect the agency’s unique mandate and mission. The CEQ encourages agencies to periodically review their NEPA procedures. The Forest Service’s NEPA procedures were last reviewed in 2008 when the Agency moved a subset of its NEPA procedures from the Forest Service Manual and Handbook to the Code of Federal Regulations. However, the Agency’s NEPA procedures still reflect in part the policies and practices established by the Agency’s 1992 NEPA Manual and Handbook. The proposed revision of the Forest Service’s NEPA procedures will be developed in consultation with CEQ.

Request for Comment

The Agency is seeking public comment on the following:

  • Processes and analysis requirements that can be modified, reduced, or eliminated in order to reduce time and cost while maintaining science-based, high-quality analysis; public involvement; and honoring agency stewardship responsibilities.
  • Approaches to landscape-scale analysis and decision making under NEPA that facilitate restoration of National Forest System lands.
  • Classes of actions that are unlikely, either individually or cumulatively, to have significant impacts and therefore should be categorically excluded from NEPA’s environmental assessment and environmental impact statement requirements, such as integrated restoration projects; special use authorizations; and activities to maintain and manage Agency sites (including recreation sites), facilities, and associated infrastructure.
  • Ways the Agency might expand and enhance coordination of environmental review and authorization decisions with other Federal agencies, as well as State, Tribal, or local environmental reviews.

Start Printed Page 303

Dated: December 20, 2017.

Tony Tooke,

Chief, USDA, Forest Service.

[FR Doc. 2017-28298 Filed 1-2-18; 8:45 am]


BLM and Forest Service Announce 2018 Discount Welfare Grazing ‘Fees?’

Move over Wild Horses, Burros and other native critters as private “welfare” cattle, sheep and goats are coming to destroy the forage on public lands near YOU!!!

Welfare Cattle herded into Antelope Complex as wild horses are being rounded up ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation


 Contact: BLM: Forest Service:

 For immediate release Date: January 30, 2018

 BLM and Forest Service announce 2018 grazing fees

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Federal grazing fee for 2018 will be $1.41 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and $1.41 per head month (HM) for lands managed by the USDA Forest Service.

 The 2017 public land grazing fee was $1.87. An AUM or HM—treated as equivalent measures for fee purposes—is the use of public lands by one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.

The newly calculated grazing fee was determined by a congressional formula and takes effect March 1, 2018. The fee will apply to nearly 18,000 grazing permits and leases administered by the BLM and nearly 6,500 permits administered by the Forest Service.

The formula used for calculating the grazing fee was established by Congress in the 1978 Public Rangelands Improvement Act and has remained in use under a 1986 presidential Executive Order. Under that order, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per AUM/HM, and any increase or decrease cannot exceed 25 percent of the previous year’s level. The annually determined grazing fee is established using a 1966 base value of $1.23 per AUM/HM for livestock grazing on public lands in Western states.

Sheep covering Adobe Town HMA ~ photo by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The figure is then calculated according to three factors—current private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production. In effect, the fee rises, falls, or stays the same based on market conditions.

 The BLM and Forest Service are committed to strong relationships with the ranching community and work closely with permittees to ensure public rangelands remain healthy, productive working landscapes.
 Fifty percent of the collected grazing fees deposited into the U.S. Treasury are returned to the Range Betterment Fund for on-the-ground range improvement projects. Portions of collected fees are also returned to the states for use in the counties where the fees were generated.
The grazing fee applies in 16 Western states on public lands administered by the BLM and the Forest Service. The states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Permit holders and lessees may contact their local BLM or Forest Service office for additional information.

Environmental Activist Sued for Libel Over Facebook Comment About Oil and Gas Company

SOURCE:  desmogblog

By Simon Davis-Cohen

On November 17, 2016, a Colorado environmental activist named Pete Kolbenschlag used Facebook to leave a comment on a local newspaper article, the kind of thing more than a billion people do every day.

However, most people don’t get sued for libel over their Facebook comments. (Although some do.)

The Post Independent story that Kolbenschlag commented on was about oil and gas extraction on federal lands near his home, in western Colorado’s North Fork Valley. It announced that the Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management was canceling all oil and gas leases on the iconic Thompson Divide, a large, rugged swath of Forest Service land.

In retaliation, the article reported, a Texas-based oil and gas company called SG Interests (SGI), which owned 18 leases in the Thompson Divide area, was planning legal action against the federal government. The decision to cancel Thompson Divide leases was one of Obama’s last while in office.

SGI claimed it had obtained documents that “clearly show” that the decision to cancel the leases “was a predetermined political decision from the Obama administration taking orders from environmental groups.”

Kolbenschlag, who has opposed drilling in the region and engaged in environmental advocacy for some 20 years, responded to SGI’s allegations by posting the following comment:

While SGI alleges “collusion” let us recall that it, SGI, was actually fined for colluding (with GEC) to rig bid prices and rip off American taxpayers. Yes, these two companies owned by billionaires thought it appropriate to pad their portfolios at the expense of you and I and every other hard-working American.”

Shortly thereafter, SGI sued Kolbenschlag for libel (which generally refers to defamatory written statements).

SGI Investigation and Settlement

Kolbenschlag’s comment was in reference to a settlement SGI and Gunnison Energy Company (GEC), another oil and gas firm active on federal lands in the region, signed with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012.

According to court documents filed by SGI, the settlement followed a two-year investigation into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two oil and gas companies in which “SGI would bid on certain federal oil and gas leases … and … SGI would assign GEC a 50 percent interest in any leases for which it was the successful bidder.” In other words, rather than compete in the bidding process, SGI would do the bidding, and then give GEC half of the mineral rights.

According to these court documents, the Justice Department’s two-year investigation led it to determine “that SGI’s and GEC’s agreement to bid jointly pursuant to the MOU constituted a per se violation of Section 1 of the Sherman [Antitrust] Act.”

The original settlement “required” the companies to pay $550,000 for “antitrust and False Claims Act violations.” It was the first time the federal government challenged an “anticompetitive bidding agreement for mineral rights leases.” That settlement, however, was later rejected by a federal judge, who approved a new settlement of $1 million and did not require the companies to admit to wrongdoing.

Libel or Retaliation?

SGI argues that Kolbenschlag’s statement that the company was fined for colluding with GEC is libelous because it is “contrary to the true facts, and reasonable persons … reading … the statement would be likely to think significantly less favorably about [SGI] than they would if they knew the true facts.”

The company argues that it was never convicted of or admitted to wrongdoing, and the settlement agreement did not require it. SGI further argues that it was not “fined,” but rather agreed to pay the government money to settle the case.

Moreover, SGI claims that “agreements such as the ones entered into between SGI and GEC are common place in the oil and gas industry.” And therefore, presumably, there’s nothing wrong with what they did.

Kolbenschlag’s attorney not only argues that his client’s comment was “substantially true” in the eyes of ordinary readers, but also that SGI’s lawsuit against him is in retaliation against his environmental activism. In legal briefs, his attorney writes that “this lawsuit is SGI’s transparent and blatant effort to punish Mr. Kolbenschlag for his public speech and advocacy that are not to SGI’s liking.”

For example, Kolbenschlag was part of a group called Citizens for a Healthy Community that focused on BLM rulemaking related to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on federal lands. “SGI is misusing the judicial system as the means to silence its critics,” claimed Kolbenschlag’s attorney.

READ the rest of this article HERE.

How Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke prompted a mass resignation from his National Park Service Advisory Board


“The conservation community in general has not been invited in…”

Ryan ‘Dinky’ Zinke – “My Ego Really is THIS BIG!”

Few groups have been closer and more involved in Interior Department policy and management than the National Park System Advisory Board, an appointed and nonpartisan group established 83 years ago to consult on department operations and practices.

So it came as a shock this week when nine of the board’s 12 members abruptly resigned in protest, complaining that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had disregarded their requests to meet at least once, a circumstance no other Park System Advisory Board had encountered.

“We were deeply disappointed with the department’s actions in dealing with us,” said former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat who served as the board’s chairman. “Advisory board advice can be accepted or ignored. The fact they suspended the board and there were no meetings on issues of climate and science, no meetings on finding ways to help underrepresented groups visit the parks. Those were the programs we’d spent years working on with previous secretaries. Those were the programs we wanted to discuss with the new secretary and keep the momentum going.”

“We started talking last summer,” said Gretchen Long, an advisory board member from Wyoming who was appointed in 2010. “Is there any point to continuing to serve? We wanted to make a statement to the American public about the direction the department is taking and the stewardship of our parks and public land. These treasures are in trouble because of the actions the department has taken.”

She added that the board “encountered a lack of understanding that is appalling.”

The Interior Department did not respond to requests for comments from the secretary or a senior department leader.

In March, when he rode on a horse to his first day as secretary, Zinke sought to distinguish himself as a Cabinet member prepared, like the president, to be visible and disruptive. It was not clear at the time that he would manage the $13 billion-a-year department and its more than 60,000 employees with a tight executive circle far from public view.

Theresa Pierno, the chief executive of the National Parks Conservation Assn., a separate, nonprofit advocacy organization, said she and her colleagues had experienced the same difficulties in attracting the Interior secretary’s attention. In an interview on Wednesday, she said Zinke is the first Interior secretary to refuse to meet with her organization’s executives to discuss the operation and condition of national parks since the NPCA was founded in 1919 by Stephen Mather, the first National Park Service director.

“We haven’t been able to even have a conversation with them,” Pierno said. “The conservation community in general has not been invited in. Why wouldn’t you want to hear from an organization that has the history, the expertise like the NPCA? We’re nonpartisan. We have Republicans and Democrats on our board. There’s really no rational answer.”

Aside from marquee public events to announce changes in energy policy and public lands management, along with shrinking the boundaries of two national monuments in Utah, Zinke has kept a low public profile. But armed with presidential executive orders, departmental reports and conservative principles and values, he’s undertaken a major shift in his department’s operating program.

He eliminated climate science from programs to better manage the department’s 500-million-acre domain. He overturned a ban on coal mining on public lands and limited the reach of environmental safeguards for oil and gas leasing and development.

This month he opened nearly all of the outer continental shelf to oil exploration, although five days later he excused Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf shorelines from the offshore drilling plan.

At the National Park Service, the department’s largest division, Zinke proposed to more than double the entrance fees to popular parks, a move that could hinder the agency’s long-running efforts to encourage more minorities to visit some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes.

Zinke’s supporters in and outside the administration credit the 56-year-old former Republican congressman from Montana with eliminating what they viewed as aggravating restrictions and restoring the department’s traditional role in managing public land for multiple uses.

“The president promised the American people that their voices would be heard and that we would prioritize American interests,” Zinke said in a year-end statement that cataloged the most important accomplishments he’d supervised. “This year the Department of the Interior has made good on those promises. We are striking the right balance to protect our greatest treasures and also generate the revenue and energy our country needs.”

Across the country, the department’s policies are viewed differently by conservation groups, many mayors and governors, and innumerable residents. They assert that Zinke has installed management and oversight practices that needlessly put national parks, wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and monuments in harm’s way.

The approach has also been different from what President Trump said he was intent on pursuing. In early December, while announcing his decision to shrink the boundaries of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, Trump told an audience in Salt Lake City that his administration was open to extensive citizen involvement in public lands decisions. “Under my administration, we will advance that protection through a truly representative process, one that listens to the local communities that knows the land the best and that cherishes the land the most.”

Under Zinke, though, the Interior Department has been dismantling public lands initiatives recommended by citizen groups representing local governments, land users, recreational industry representatives, Native Americans, and environmental organizations. In 2010, for instance, the Obama administration established what it called a “master leasing program,” a collaboration between the Bureau of Land Management and local governments, businesses, and citizen groups.

The idea was to help the BLM incorporate better environmental safeguards in its oil and gas leasing auctions in western states. In 2017, Zinke ordered an end to the program.

Another indication of Zinke’s different approach from previous Interior secretaries is how many executive level Interior Department positions are not filled. The National Park Service, for instance, does not have a director and the administration has not nominated a candidate. The National Parks Conservation Association says it is the first time that has occurred since the National Park Service was established in 1916.

More Dinky Zinke Stuff:

Erik Molvar, Exec. Dir. of Western Watersheds Project, on Wild Horse & Burro Radio


Wild_Horse_Burro_Radio_LogoJoin us for Wild Horse Wednesdays®, for a special show on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018

4:00 p.m. PST … 5:00 p.m. MST … 6:00 p.m. CST … 7:00 p.m. EST

Listen to the archived show (HERE!)

You can also listen to the show on your phone by calling (917) 388-4520.

This show will be archived so you can listen to it anytime.

Our guest is ERIK MOLVAR, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. Erik fought oil and gas projects in Wyoming during the Bush administration. He is a wildlife biologist with published research in the behavior, ecology, and population dynamics of Alaskan moose as well as large-scale conservation planning. Erik has been a conservation advocate, the Exec. Dir. of Wyoming-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, and led WildEarth Guardians’ Sagebrush Sea Campaign. Erik is a contributor to The Hill and his blog posts can be found here.

Western Watersheds Project (WWP) aims to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and legal advocacy. WWP works to influence and improve public lands management throughout the West, with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250 million acres of western public lands.

This show will be hosted by Debbie Coffey (V.P. and Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs) of Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

To contact us:


To find out more about Wild Horse Freedom Federation and our work to keep wild horses and burros wild and free on our public lands visit

Donate Here:

Continue reading

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)