Monumental Disaster at the Department of the Interior

This is a tough time to be a federal scientist—or any civil servant in the federal government. The Trump administration is clamping down on science, denying dangerous climate change and hollowing out the workforces of the agencies charged with protecting American health, safety and natural resources. At the Department of the Interior (DOI), with its mission to conserve...

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Chest-thumping Interior Department claims one success amid a sea of losses

Last week the Interior Department announced the sale of oil and gas leases covering over 50,700 acres in New Mexico’s Permian Basin for $972.5 million. Like a kid in a candy store, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke celebrated the “historic” lease sale, ignoring the reality of his shortsighted agenda: the rush to lease public lands for energy development has produced more...

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US poised to allow more mining on land Trump removed from monuments

US officials have announced plans to allow increased mining on land that once belonged to two national monuments Donald Trump shrank, and to sell off some of the land despite pledges not to do so. The two monuments, now significantly smaller in size, are both in Utah. The draft management plan for Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument includes a 98-page minerals...

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Trump team stops asking drillers and miners to pay for damage to federal lands

For years, whenever companies wanted to drill for oil and dig for coal on federally owned lands, they often had to pay to offset any damage their activities had on the environment. Now, no more. This week the Trump administration scrapped long-standing requirements that companies undertaking energy development and other work on Bureau of Land Management lands make up for...

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Trump administration officials dismissed benefits of national monuments

In a quest to shrink national monuments, senior Interior Department officials dismissed evidence that these public lands boosted tourism and spurred archaeological discoveries, according to documents the department released last week and retracted a day later. The thousands of pages of email correspondence chart how Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides instead...

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Drilling, one mile outside Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes

Since President Donald Trump was sworn into office last year, the administration has used its “energy dominance” agenda to require states to conduct quarterly sales on public lands across the West. As a result, the Bureau of Land Management is on track to double the acreage open for leasing in 2018, compared to 2017, in six Western states. This September, 11 parcels...

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Inspector General: Zinke’s Reassignment Of Native Americans And Climate Scientists Possibly Illegal

The reassignment of dozens of senior career Interior Department (DOI) officials last year may have violated federal law, a damning internal report released April 11, 2018 found. But investigators with the DOI Inspector General’s office said they were unable to say definitively because the agency failed to properly document their reasons for ousting the employees. “Absent...

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National parks to rethink plan to hike entrance fees after widespread anger

The Department of the Interior said that it planned to revise a controversial proposal to drastically increase entrance fees at some of the most popular national parks in the country. The interior department press secretary, Heather Swift, said the Trump administration decided to rethink its proposal after Americans flooded the National Park Service (NPS) with more than...

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Wipeout: Human role in climate change removed from government science report

National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s vow to Congress, under oath, that his department is not censoring science. The research for the first time projects the risks from rising seas and flooding...

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At Bears Ears, Trump and Zinke ignored everyone but industry

In April 2017, Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said of former President Barack Obama and the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument: “In making this unilateral decision, our former president either failed to heed the concerns of San Juan County residents, or ignored them completely.” If Hatch were an honest man, he would say exactly the same about President...

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Federal plan to auction mineral rights near Great Sands Dunes National Park opposed by environmentalists

Plans by a federal agency to auction off mineral rights on 18,000 acres near Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve to oil and gas drillers has placed Colorado at the center of growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s energy-production initiatives. Environmentalists want to block the federal Bureau of Land Management’s push to lease out the mineral rights...

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Emails reveal oil and gas drilling was a key incentive to shrink Utah national monuments

From the start of the Trump administration’s review of national monuments, agency officials were directing staff at the U.S. Department of the Interior to figure out how much coal, oil, and natural gas had been placed off limits by the Bears Ears’ National Monument designation. Environmental activists and public lands advocates feared Trump was pushing to reduce the size...

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Interior Secretary Zinke cancels Chaco Canyon lease sale to frackers

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has canceled an oil and gas lease sale near Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico until the agency can further review the impact on cultural artifacts in the area. The sale was set for March 8. Zinke said that “there have been some questions raised” so the Bureau of Land Management will hold off on the sale of about 25 parcels on 4,434...

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A Perilous Shutdown Plan for National Parks

During the 21-day government shutdown of 1995-1996, an enormous blizzard left up to three feet of snow in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park—and no one was there to shovel the parking lots. But that was the least of Bill Wade’s problems. The park’s superintendent at the time, Wade knew that several campers had entered the Shenandoah backcountry before the shutdown....

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Nearly all members of National Park Service advisory panel resign in frustration

Three-quarters of the members of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service abruptly quit January 14, 2018 out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year. The resignation of nine out of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members leaves the federal government without a...

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Under Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, it’s a sell-off from sea to shining sea

On his first day as Secretary of the Interior, last March, Ryan Zinke rode through downtown Washington, D.C., on a roan named Tonto. When the Secretary is working at the department’s main office, on C Street, a staff member climbs up to the roof of the building and hoists a special flag, which comes down when Zinke goes home for the day. The department, which comprises...

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Interior Department’s return to the ‘Robber Baron’ years

In 1921, President Warren G. Harding, R, at the behest of the oil barons who financed his election, appointed Albert Bacon Fall to be his secretary of the Interior. Fall had vowed not only to transfer all public lands to private interests, but also to abolish the Interior Department altogether. As a Cabinet member, he set out to dismantle the conservation ethos that...

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Brace For A Big Jump In National Park Entrance Fees

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke moved yesterday to find a way to boost funding to address the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog, proposing to substantially increase park entrance fees during the “high season” for vacations. It’s a move that seemingly would do little to address the backlog, estimated at roughly $12 billion, while hitting...

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Interior Secretary Zinke fiddles on climate while America’s national parks burn

September 2017 is quickly becoming one of the most devastating months in history for America’s national parks and forests. From Montana to Oregon to California, national treasures in Glacier National Park, the Columbia River Gorge, and Yosemite National Park have been destroyed or threatened by wildfires. While any single season or event cannot be attributed to climate...

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Interior Secretary Zinke outlines future of National Park Service while visiting BRP

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke came to the mountains of Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina on August 25, 2017 to celebrate the 101st birthday of the National Park Service and also lay out the department’s future. Zinke said the country’s national parks are facing an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog that he wants to close in five years. This comes on the...

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Trump plan could open Giant Sequoia monument to logging

For the largest living things standing on the planet, California’s giant sequoias have an unassuming, almost gentle aura to them. The recognizable cinnamon-colored bark is soft and fibrous. Its cones are modest. When cut down, the trees tend to shatter and won’t produce reliably sturdy timber. These majestic plants have a lineage stretching back to the Jurassic period,...

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More National Parks and Monuments Pushing Fee Increases At Direction Of Interior Secretary

Every week, it seems like another park is asking the public for input on increasing its entrance fees. Turns out, there’s a simple explanation: The Interior Department is telling them to. And at one park, Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, that means implementing two rate increases, ultimately doubling the cost of a seven-day vehicle pass, in just 12 months. The...

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Interior Secretary Zinke’s latest gift to the oil and gas industry might be illegal

Attorneys general from California and New Mexico filed a lawsuit July 5, 2017 over Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s postponement of the Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste prevention rule. The suit holds that the Interior Department’s failure to implement the rule will cost California taxpayers substantial royalty payments and furthers the Trump...

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Despite tribal opposition, Trump’s Interior Secretary wants to shrink Bears Ears National Monument

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recommended that President Donald Trump cut the boundary of the culturally significant Bears Ears National Monument in an interim report he sent to Trump. Tribes and conservation groups argue that this is a potentially illegal act and that Trump does not have the authority to eliminate sections of a national monument. “The review...

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What happens next for Bears Ears National Monument

By June 10th, 2017, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will announce his decision on whether to recommend reducing or removing protection for Bears Ears National Monument. Just a couple weeks after President Trump signed an executive order targeting national monuments, Bears Ears National Monument’s May 26th comment period deadline has passed. In the coming weeks, the...

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Zinke says monument designations have been an ‘effective tool,’ Hatch is confused

As he embarked on a tour of Utah to review two national monuments, Ryan Zinke said he sees no evidence Native American proponents of Bears Ears National Monument were exploited by special interest groups, as state leaders have suggested. “I think they’re smart, capable, passionate, and have a deep sense of tie to their culture and want to preserve it,”...

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