Zinke Rides On

Controversy aside, he enacted real reforms

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. ©U.S. Department of the Interior

After nearly two years on the job, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is moving on. President Trump announced over the weekend that Zinke — whose department oversees 500 million acres of federal land and has a wide range of environmental and land-management responsibilities — will leave the administration at the end of the year. A new secretary will be announced this week, the president tweeted.

Many environmental activists celebrated the news. “Ryan Zinke will go down as the most anti-conservation Interior secretary in our nation’s history,” said Jennifer Rokala of the Center for Western Priorities. Chris Saeger of Western Values Project called Zinke’s tenure “a disaster for public lands of historic proportions.” Democrats in Congress likewise cheered Zinke’s exit. “The swamp cabinet will be a little less foul without him,” tweeted Sen. Chuck Schumer (D. New York).

As interior secretary, Zinke generated more than his share of controversy. He oversaw a contentious review of national monument designations, promoted Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda, and scaled back several Obama-era regulations — and along the way he encountered strong resistance. Zinke has also been the focus of several ethics investigations, which he has called “meritless and false claims” and “vicious and politically motivated attacks” on his character.

But despite all the furor and controversy, Zinke’s legacy includes several lesser-known initiatives that will have positive lasting effects on conservation and public lands. And even some of Zinke’s most controversial policy actions — from monument reductions to regulatory rollbacks — were largely mischaracterized and exaggerated by environmentalists and the media.

Read the entire piece in National Review. 

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