Zinke Rides In

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

But will the new interior secretary take on the federal-lands bureaucracy?


Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Earlier this year, Ryan Zinke arrived at his new job on horseback. Dressed in boots, jeans, and a cowboy hat, and seated somewhat awkwardly on an English saddle, Zinke rode a 17-year-old Irish sport horse through the streets of Washington, D.C., to Interior Department headquarters, where he would begin his first day as President Trump’s interior secretary. Zinke, a fifth-generation Montanan who had previously held the state’s at-large seat in the House of Representatives, wanted to make a point: Things are going to change in Washington, D.C.

“The rough riders have arrived in Interior,” Zinke later told me. “There’s a lot of anger and resentment out west that our voice isn’t being heard.” His tone marks a stark shift away from the Obama administration’s brand of coastal environmentalism, which often sought strict public-land protections, and toward a rough-and-tumble management style that is more accepting of traditional land uses. As Zinke would later tell a crowd of western ranchers: “The war on the West is over.”

Higher-profile positions in the Defense and State Departments may get more attention, but secretary of the interior is no lightweight cabinet post. The Interior Department’s various agencies, which include the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management, oversee 500 million acres of surface land — more than one-fifth of the nation — and nearly five times as many subsurface acres onshore and offshore. The department’s Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with protecting endangered species and regulating their habitat on private lands, and its Bureau of Indian Affairs is responsible for upholding the government’s obligations to Native American tribes. For many people who live and work in the American West, the importance of the interior secretary rivals that of the president.

Continue reading the rest of the piece here. This article was originally published on May 29, 2017 in an issue of National Review.

This article also appeared in a special issue of PERC ReportsThe Future of Public Lands.

Click here to read the full issue online.



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National Review
Shawn Regan is a research fellow and the director of publications at PERC. He holds a M.S. in Applied Economics from Montana State University and degrees in economics and environmental science from Berry College. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Quartz, High Country News, Reason, Regulation, Grist, and Distinctly Montana. Shawn is...
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