WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

Interior Secretary Zinke Is No Teddy Roosevelt Conservationist

New Interior head promises to hand over management of Americans' lands to logging, fracking, mining interests

Additional Contact:

Jeremy Nichols, 303-437-7663, jnichols@wildearthguardians.org

SANTA FE, NM–The U.S. Senate today confirmed President Trump’s nomination of Montana U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke as the nation’s new Secretary of the Department of the Interior, a move that promises to undermine American ownership of public lands and pave the way for ramped up fossil fuel production.  

The Interior Department has far-ranging responsibilities critical to the health of the American West, including:

  • Managing 500 million acres of public lands, including America’s National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, as well as lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management;
  • Regulating the fossil fuels- and mining industries on those lands;
  • Protecting threatened and endangered fish and wildlife; and
  • Honoring trust responsibilities to American Indians and Native Alaskans.

During his time in Congress Zinke described himself as a “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist” and opposed public lands giveaways to the states. At the same time, however, he supported a bill to transfer management control of millions of acres of National Forest lands to local industry-dominated advisory groups. At his confirmation hearing he repeated his opposition to Republican public lands giveaways but also endorsed local control as the best model of public lands management.

“Secretary Zinke has made a big show of his opposition to selling off public lands, but his so-called solution is just as bad,” stated Chris Krupp, Public Lands Guardian for WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “He wants to maintain public landownership so we’re all on the hook for paying for fighting wildfires and other costs. But then he wants to hand decision-making over to locals who will comply with industries’ wishes,” Krupp said. “Either way we’re left with polluted public lands and waters and loss of public access.”

Zinke’s industry-friendly stance on fossil fuels is further at odds with his claim to be an heir to Roosevelt’s legacy. Zinke’s positions—support for the Keystone pipeline, and opposition to EPA’s Clean Power Plan and Interior’s federal coal leasing moratorium—to say nothing of the $208,000 in campaign donations from the fossil fuels industries, simply do not square with Teddy Roosevelt’s enlightened belief that public lands are “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

“Interior Secretary Zinke is a fake and fraud,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “With Zinke, President Trump has made clear his goal of surrendering treasured American public lands to the oil, gas, and coal industries. Today’s confirmation of Zinke should be a call to action for every American who values National Parks and public lands to stand up and resist this President’s agenda of putting the interests of fossil fuel companies before all of us Americans.”


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