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n March 1, 2017, the day he was sworn in as President Trump’s new interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, a former single-term congressman, declared he was “honored and humbled” to serve in the post. Even by the standards of Trump Administration doublespeak, Zinke’s assertion of humility was jaw-dropping. After all, he’d just arrived for his first day on the job astride a horse named Tonto. Soon Zinke was ordering his staff to raise a special secretarial flag whenever he was on the premises, and he commissioned a commemorative coin with his name emblazoned on it. But if such imperious acts have seemed by turns baffling and disconcerting, what really provokes outrage is Zinke’s repeated casting of himself as a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist—a responsible steward for our 500 million acres of public lands and oceans. In his inaugural press statement, Zinke vowed to uphold Roosevelt’s legacy and “work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits all Americans for generations to come.” In reality, Zinke’s first year on the job has been nothing short of an environmental disaster. “Teddy Roosevelt must be rolling over in his grave,” says Andrew Wetzler, the managing director of NRDC’s Nature program. “Rather than uphold Roosevelt’s legacy, Zinke has launched a full-scale attack on it by throwing open our public estate to the fossil fuel industry.” That rush to commercial exploitation has encompassed everything from national monuments to treasured coastlines, from Arctic wildlife habitats to vast stretches of public lands in the Lower 48. Only a tidal wave of public outrage kept Zinke from sticking it to the little guy by imposing a dramatic hike in entrance fees to national parks. He is still eyeing a plan that would slash royalty fees paid by energy companies to drill in offshore waters. NRDC has filed no fewer than ten lawsuits against Zinke’s Interior Department to date, and we’re prepared to take legal action on other fronts as new threats emerge.

addressed the industry’s top lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute, at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Moreover, a number of questionable travel expenses­have been the subject of ethics complaints against Zinke, including the more than $12,000 he spent chartering a private plane owned by oil and gas company executives for a flight from Las Vegas to Montana. The department’s inspector general says she has been thwarted in her investigation of Zinke’s travel practices by his failure to keep complete records and his department’s apparent inability to “distinguish between personal, political and official travel.”

Zinke has been working tirelessly for the fossil fuel lobby. Clockwise from top left: The California coast—and virtually all of our nation’s coastal waters—will be opened to drilling; Gold Butte in Nevada is one of four national monuments that Zinke has proposed shrinking; the Coal Hollow Mine could be expanded onto public land near Bryce Canyon National Park, thanks to Zinke’s reversal of the coal leasing moratorium; Yellowstone’s grizzlies have been stripped of their endangered species protections. Inset: Zinke at his confirmation hearing.

Zinke’s penchant for invoking Roosevelt is perhaps most galling when it comes to his assault on our national monuments. It was Roosevelt who signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, which granted presidents the authority to permanently protect sites of irreplaceable historic and cultural value. Roosevelt himself used that authority to preserve 17 sites, including those that would eventually become Grand Canyon and Olympic National Parks. That hasn’t stopped Zinke from plotting against several of our national monuments. On the basis of his recom­ mendations, President Trump has moved to shrink two monuments in Utah—Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante—by a staggering 85 per­cent and

45 percent, respectively. NRDC is challenging those attacks in federal court. Zinke has further proposed significant reductions to two other monuments, Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou and Nevada’s Gold Butte, and would open six more—some on land, some in the ocean—to extractive industries, such as logging, mining, drilling and commercial fishing. Rather than working tirelessly for all Americans, Zinke has been working tirelessly for the fossil fuel lobby. In his first two months on the job, he held more meetings with oil and gas executives— including brass from ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP America—than with representatives from any other group. Three weeks after he took office, he

Zinke’s tenure at Interior is shaping up to be a bonanza for the fossil-fuel giants. He summarily overturned an Obama-era moratorium on coal leasing on federal land, and he has moved swiftly to fast-track drilling and mining permits by scaling back or scrapping federal environmental and public health protections. Meanwhile, the amount of public land offered for oil and gas leasing during Zinke’s first year totaled nearly 12 million acres, a sixfold increase over the last year of the Obama Admin­istration. That included the largest-ever lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, also known as the Western Arctic Reserve, which contains nesting habitat for millions of migratory birds and the calving grounds of the Western Arctic caribou herd. In addition, Zinke’s lieutenants are [Continued on next page.]



Nature's Voice Summer 2018  

All of the environmental projects and victories described in Nature’s Voice are made possible through the generous support of Members like y...

Nature's Voice Summer 2018  

All of the environmental projects and victories described in Nature’s Voice are made possible through the generous support of Members like y...