The Department of the Interior touches more lives in more ways than any other federal agency. Led by Secretary Ryan Zinke, the agency manages one-fifth of the land in the United States including our national parks, wildlife refuges, and the delivery of water and power in the West.
We have entrusted Zinke and the Interior Department with the care of the wildlife, fish, waterways and land for the benefit of us all. By the law of nature, certain things are common to all mankind. Such idea has ancient roots, beginning in Greek and Roman civil law. As trustee, Zinke manages the public lands and waters in the interest of all of us.
As trustee, Zinke is accountable to us—the beneficiaries of the trust—to show that he has managed them for the common good. He has failed.
Drilling in our Public Waters
Zinke’s proposed 5-year offshore drilling plan includes the largest number of lease sales in history. The plan identifies 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas—19 sales off the coast of Alaska, 7 in the Pacific Region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and 9 in the Atlantic Region.
Drilling and Mining on Our Public Lands
Zinke wants to open as much public land to drilling and mining as possible. He has offered over 12 million acres of public lands for oil and gas drilling in his first year.
At Zinke’s recommendation, President Trump reduced Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by 85 percent. He has proposed to open 948,984 acres of the original monument to uranium mining and oil and gas drilling. Only two small non-contiguous units remain as a fig leaf of protection for the area rich in natural, cultural and spiritual value. Foreign energy interests urged Zinke to remove the land’s protections to allow uranium mining.
At Zinke’s recommendation, President Trump revoked monument status for nearly half of Utah’s Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The changes open the door to oil, gas and coal companies, shutting out the rest of us. The original monument was created over 20 years ago to protect the 1-million acre Kaiparowits Plateau at the heart of one of the largest wilderness expanses in the lower 48 states. Zinke would lift those protections to tap its coal.
Moving the Deck Chairs
Reorganization is a waste of time and money when our lands and waters cannot afford it.
If his goal is to disrupt the important work he has as steward of our lands and waters, Zinke gets an A. If—on the other hand—his goal is to protect our lands and waters for all of us, Zinke gets an F.