31 days and 17 astounding comments and actions by In(f)erior Sec. Zinke

Mar 31, 2018

Ryan Zinke is President Trump's Secretary of the Interior. White House, Washington. 

Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
The 17 most astounding and misguided comments and actions from the past month, March 2018.

Zinke blames veterans, people with disabilities, old people for increase in park fees.

“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday morning that the Interior Department is considering raising fees at the most-visited national parks, partially because groups of people such as veterans, the disabled and the elderly can enter parks for free.”  (Washington Examiner, 3-13-18)

Zinke tells employees diversity isn’t important.

“Three high-ranking Interior officials from three different divisions said that Zinke has made several comments with a similar theme, saying ‘diversity isn't important,’ or ‘I don't care about diversity,’ or ‘I don't really think that's important anymore.’” (CNN, 3-27-18)

Zinke creates new outdoor recreation panel made up almost entirely of industry advisers.

“…including three people whom department officials flagged as potentially having a conflict of interest on the matter. The membership of the “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, which Zinke launched in November, marks the third time the secretary has assembled panels dominated by industry players to help chart policies affecting their businesses.” (Washington Post, 3-28-18)

A mining firm executive griped to Zinke about federal pollution rules. The secretary apologized. “…an exchange last fall between Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the chief executive of an Idaho-based mining company tied to major toxic contamination in the Little Rocky Mountains…. ‘Hello, secretary. Good to see you again. Phil Baker with Hecla Mining Company... I’m here to tell you and others about the impediments to mining from the permitting regime we have.’ Before he could explain the impediments, Zinke responded: ‘On behalf of the United States government, we apologize.’” (Washington Post, 3/28/18)

“Deck chairs on the Titanic.” Bipartisan officials slam Zinke's reorganization plans.

“Former Interior Department officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations today mocked Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's proposed overhaul of the agency, characterizing the undertaking as a waste of both federal tax dollars and effort. ‘It's sort of like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It's a huge time suck to do that, and as a political appointee, you have a very limited window to get things done,’ said Rebecca Watson, who served as assistant secretary for land and minerals management in the George W. Bush administration. (E&E News reporter 3-16-18)

Wildlife protection board -- stuffed with trophy hunters.

“A new U.S. advisory board created to help rewrite federal rules for importing the heads and hides of African elephants, lions and rhinos is stacked with trophy hunters, including some members with direct ties to President Donald Trump and his family….The oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., drew the ire of animal rights activists after a 2011 photo emerged of him holding a bloody knife and the severed tail of an elephant he killed in Zimbabwe.” (Great Falls Tribune, 3/15/18)

“We have not imported one elephant.”

 “‘We have not imported one elephant,’ Zinke said in testimony about the Interior Department’s budget before the House Natural Resources Committee. His remarks came after conservation and animal rights groups have criticized the Trump administration’s move to allow some imports, saying the new policy will be difficult to monitor.” (Washington Examiner, 3/15/18)

Administration seeks swift action on Alaska oil leases (in an era of low energy prices and an energy glut).

“The Trump administration is seeking to sell leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as quickly as possible – drawing fire from opponents of drilling in the sensitive area, who are warning against a rushed process.” (Reuters, 3/15/18)

Does Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have amnesia about off-shore drilling?

“Does Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have amnesia? During an appearance Thursday before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Zinke bizarrely claimed ‘Florida did not get an exemption,’ from the administration’s offshore oil drilling plan.” (Tampa Bay Times, 3/15/18)

Zinke reversal on drilling off Florida shores connected to political favor in Senate race.

“The records reaffirm the perception at the time that the Trump administration’s decision to reverse course and remove Florida from the list was carefully choreographed to give Scott a political win in his widely expected challenge this year to unseat Nelson.” (Politico, 3-27-18)

Pricey airplane flights. Pricey helicopter travel. Pricey … door repairs?

“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday that his department has nearly cut in half the $139,000 bill for replacing six historical doors in his office.” (CNN, 3/15/18)

Konnichiwa: Zinke finds humor where there is none; Week goes from bad to worse.

“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke found a new way to make headlines this week, offering a response to an inquiry from Democrat Rep. Colleen Hanabusa that has been criticized as ‘juvenile’ at best, and ‘racist’ at worst. Hanabusa questioned Zinke about some aspect of President Donald Trump’s budget, which proposes cutting the Obama-era Japanese-American Confinement Sites Grant….” (Newsweek, 3/16/18,The Hill, 3/15/18, The Hill, 3/16/18)

Zinke offended by Democrat's jab at Navy SEALs.

“Criticize his travel expenses or pricey new office doors, if you’d like. But don’t ever insult Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s beloved Navy SEALs… It was a jab at the Navy SEALs that really got under his skin.” (USA Today, 3/15/18)

Unpopular in Zinke’s home state: a land exchange proposal for rich out-of-staters.

“Zinke has promised to look into a Montana land exchange proposal from Texas oil and gas billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks that was twice rejected under the Obama administration…. The Wilkses and their lobbyist met Zinke, a Montana native, last September. Local conservationists and hunters are opposed to the deal, wary of a takeover of protected lands by wealthy out-of-state landowners.” (Guardian, 3/16/18)

Ryan Zinke wrong that Trump proposal would be biggest ever for public lands.

“It’s far from assured that the maximum figure of $18 billion in the proposal will ever be reached if enacted. Beyond that, though, Roosevelt’s $3 billion investment in the Civilian Conservation Corps would amount to $53 billion today, and it accounted for vastly more than the Trump proposal as a percentage of federal spending at the time. We rate the statement False.” (PolitiFact 3/19/18)

Oil rigs and cowboys: Interior agency gives employees new cards to wear.

“The Bureau of Land Management has distributed an unusual new accessory for some of its employees to wear: A card with an image of an oil rig on one side and cattle ranching on the other.” (Washington Post, 3/15/18)

California doesn't want this water project. Administration may build it anyway.

“The Trump administration is pushing forward with a colossal public works project in Northern California — heightening the towering Shasta Dam the equivalent of nearly two stories. The problem is that California is dead-set against the plan, and state law prohibits the 602-foot New Deal-era structure from getting any taller….The state’s objection to this $1.3-billion project near the Sacramento River is hardly proving a deterrent.” (Los Angeles Times, 3/15/18

See list of his biggest policy assaults since taking office:

Selling out our lands to polluters: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s 1st Year.”