Internal watchdog says Dept. of Interior should focus on climate change. It isn’t.

With control of one-fifth of the land area of the United States, the Interior Department is expected to be challenged by more intense wildfires, rising seas and other effects of climate change over the next fiscal year, a new internal government watchdog report has found.

Interior’s Office of the Inspector General listed climate change as among the “most significant management and performance challenges” facing the department, noting the “[e]ffects from a changing climate are a cross-cutting, complex issue.”

To date, however, the Trump administration has taken few, if any, steps to address the emerging threat.

Instead, under the leadership of Secretary Ryan Zinke, Interior has reoriented its mission around boosting the extraction of fossil fuels and other resources on the more than 500 million acres under its management as part of the Trump administration’s sweeping “energy dominance” agenda.

The IG report isn’t a one-off from career employees when it comes to the environment. In October, a report from the Government Accountability Office urged the Trump administration to start paying attention to the price tag of climate change.

The forest fire season, for example, will continue to grow longer because of warming and drier conditions, the report said, further straining the department’s finances. Interior, it said, “will continue to struggle with the increasing financial and logistical difficulties of preventing and fighting wildland fires.”

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