Under Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, it’s a sell-off from sea to shining sea. – Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker
A “hat act” is a performer who dons a fancy, ten-gallon cowboy hat as his sole claim to the traditions of country and western music. He is a manufactured star selling a manufactured product designed for one thing only – the generation of profit.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is the hat act of the American environment. Since his appointment, Interior’s traditional environmental mission has been replaced with a mission of resource exploitation aimed at wildlife and the lands upon which they depend. Not surprisingly, Zinke is now the subject of a torrent of ethics investigations, the kind that often burdens appointed government officials who mix business, and industry, with duty.
In her New Yorker article, Elizabeth Kolbert portrays Zinke’s outward persona as a hustle from day one:
On his first day as Secretary of the Interior, last March, Ryan Zinke rode through downtown Washington, D.C., on a roan named Tonto. . . One of Zinke’s first acts, after dismounting from Tonto, was to overturn a moratorium on new leases for coal mines on public land.
Zinke’s agenda has regularly incensed environmentalists, Some examples:
- Opened protected public lands to drilling, as well as mining.
- Reduced the size of Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments to allow for oil and mineral exploitation
- Began the process of opening offshore oil and gas drilling in the nation’s 22 coastal states.
- Removed “threatened” status that protected Yellowstone Park grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act, allowing them to be hunted.
- Supported the use of baiting wildlife dens to allow more aggressive hunting of bears and wolves in Alaskan wildlife preserves.
- Stocked Interior’s Wildlife Conservation Council with recreational hunters.
What should be the Secretary’s mission? According to its website, the Department of Interior:
. . . uses sound science to manage and sustain America’s lands, water, wildlife, and energy resources, honors our nation’s responsibilities to tribal nations, and advocates for America’s island communities.
As keepers of our nation’s legacy, we manage the resources in our care to benefit Americans now and in the future. Our department and its employees are developing and implementing the cutting-edge science and expert management techniques that make this possible.
Beneath that mission statement are links to DOI programs. “Climate change” tops the list. A click brings you to this:
That page doesn’t seem to be available on our system. Its content may have been moved elsewhere — or our site might just be having trouble right now.
Our site-search feature may be able to help. To search DOI.gov and other Interior sites, start by clicking the magnifying lens at the top of the screen.
The recommended “site-search” takes the visitor to web pages that are mostly password protected.
In an escalating scandal that recalls the travails of President Ronald Reagan’s environmental team, the Interior Secretary is fighting for his political life on the heels of the departure of disgraced EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. The New York Times published a Guide to the Ryan Zinke Investigations:
Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, faces at least a half-dozen ongoing ethics inquiries related to his leadership at the Interior Department.
The inquiries include investigations into Mr. Zinke’s personal financial dealings and his handling of policy matters like the redrawing of the boundaries of a national monument in Utah.
According to a person familiar with the matter, one of those inquiries — into whether Mr. Zinke stood to benefit from a Montana development deal linked to the energy giant Halliburton — has very likely been referred to the Department of Justice for further review.
Among the charges leveled: violations of the Hatch Act, bending to improper political influence, reducing the boundaries of national monuments to benefit a fellow Republican, mismanaging a charitable foundation, violating travel policies, and conflicts of interest over the Montana land deal that benefited Haliburton.
Although Zinke has managed to hang on to his position for longer than some observers expected, including EarthDesk, he is likely on the way out the door. His prolonged exit has more to do with the administration’s need to create distance between his departure and the forced departure of Pruitt than any question about his mounting troubles. Even President Trump will become fed-up over the unnecessary appearance his environmental agencies house a cabal of corrupt officials.
As we wrote in an article that anticipated the doomed tenures of Zinke and Pruitt, “Come an appointee’s judgement day, a president rarely extends the White House coattails to an official, even a loyal one, who displeases him, or who is a constant magnet for bad press and contrary public opinion.”
It was quite a spectacle, as a series of skeptical members of Congress tried to pin down an exceedingly wriggly Pruitt, pleading with him to give straight answers to straightforward questions about allegations of self-dealing, cronyism, corruption, and revenge firingsread more
Senator John Barrasso, climate denier, winner of an 8% rating from the League of Conservation Voters, and chair of the Senate Environment Committee is pleased America is being saved from the “regulatory rampage” of the Obama years. His Wyoming constituents have a new “spring in their step.”read more
President Trump is preternaturally unwilling to spare any administration member the exit door. Of the original appointees left, Pruitt and Zinke may prove to be the last of those who have the president’s easily exhaustible loyalty.read more
All but one of the 16 discretionary members the administration chose, hunt foreign species that are subject to import permits, represent an organization that promotes hunting of such species, guide hunts for such species, or is a “celebrity hunter” who glorifies hunting of such species.read more
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Former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck calls out Interior Secretary Zinke for his plan to open up oil and gas drilling on the east and west coasts. Florida was exempted when its Republican governor complained. Why not NY? Why not wind instead?read more
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As of this writing, Day Zero, — the day the water supply of Capetown, South Africa will run out — is set for May 11. The plight of this city of 4 million is a cautionary tale, littered with missed opportunities and unheeded warnings that every 21st century city and town should take to heart.read more
Students of the Pace University Environmental Policy Clinic conducted an investigation of the U.S. Coast Guard proposal to anchor oil barges on the Hudson. Six months later, the agency withdrew its proposal and began the proper studies the Clinic called for.read more
Research demonstrates that the industrial livestock system, which produces 95% of the world’s meat, is a major source of the hydrocarbon methane — a potent climate-killing greenhouse gas that cows emit with alarming regularity. Is science on the verge of a solution?read more
I was once asked to write a letter to the Children of 2100, for a time capsule. I thought long about human achievements that could endure a century’s passing. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the first manned landing on the moon stood out as symbols of the age.read more
EarthDesk will be offline during the semester break. If you need some reading material, search EarthDesk using the term “homeless.” During the holiday season, remember the less fortunate in the human and natural environment who need your help. See you in January.read more