LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Trump’s Interior secretary pick sends mixed messages

Our federal lands are too precious to entrust to a Presidential Cabinet nominee who refuses to take a consistent stand against federal land-use giveaways. Federal lands belong to all Americans, not just to those Americans in whose state those lands are geographically located. I therefore ask that Senators Carper and Coons oppose the confirmation of Rep. Zinke as our next Secretary of the Interior.

Unfortunately, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana), President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Interior, is a flip-flopper on the crucial issue of ensuring that federal lands are managed at the federal level, and therefore, should not be confirmed.

On the one hand, Zinke opposed transferring federal land to states and resigned from the Republican platform-writing committee when it became apparent that the transfer language would be included in the official Republican platform. He also made opposing federal land transfer a plank of his re-election campaign for the U.S. House.

On the other hand, according to the Montana Wilderness Association, in 2012, while running an unsuccessful race for lieutenant governor, Zinke adopted the exact opposite stance when he “signed a pledge to transfer national forest lands to individual states — a position that matches both state and national Republican Party platforms.”

Additionally, according to the MWA, “During his first term in the (U.S.) House, he voted against a budget measure that would have allowed transfer of two million acres of national forest lands. That vote, in April of 2015, drew praise from MWA. But, six weeks later, he voted for the Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act (H.R. 2316), which would allow the management of four million acres of National Forest lands to be transferred to individual states, where gubernatorial appointees would have exclusive control of public lands.”

And that’s not all. Zinke opposed a measure by fellow Republican colleague Alaskan Rep. Don Young that would have allowed each state to buy up to 2 million acres in U.S. Forest Service land to boost timber production, and pushed for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a high priority for outdoors groups. Later, Zinke reportedly opposed the recent Clean Water Act regulations that safeguard temporary wetlands and intermittent streams. He also opposed the current moratorium on coal leasing on federal land.

Finally, Zinke’s vote on the recently passed House Rules Package is the most telling. That package contains a provision that would make it easier to cede federal control of public lands to state officials. Under current rules, if lawmakers wanted to give land generating money to a given state or local government or tribe, that loss must be offset by either budget cuts or a revenue-raising provision. The new rules package would overturn that requirement and allow transfer of land without any consideration of federal dollars lost. The immediate impact of the rules change is that lawmakers cannot raise a budgetary point of order if a land transfer bill comes to the floor.

Brian Sybert, MWA executive director, decisively reacted, saying, “This is an absolute affront to Montana’s way of life and to the millions of Americans who hike, hunt, fish, and camp on public lands. … These lands belong to all Americans (emphasis added).” Sybert went further, stating that “(i)t’s especially troubling that Rep. Zinke, a self-proclaimed (Teddy) Roosevelt conservationist and possibly our next Interior Secretary, voted for this measure, because this is a major attack on Roosevelt’s legacy.”

Leslie Ledogar


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