Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Interior Dept shortlist vexes workers, greens

President-elect Donald Trump's shortlist of candidates to lead the US Department of Interior has employees and environmental advocates fearful of a shift in the agency's direction, from one focused on preserving public lands to one that would open them up to more drilling and mining. He is considering oil drilling advocates like Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Alaska's former governor Sarah Palin and Lucas Oil co-founder Forrest Lucas to run the Interior Dept, media reports and Reuters sources say. Other contenders are several politicians from Western states who favour easier development of public lands. Any of those picks could trigger battles with environmental groups and cause internal strife at an agency where many workers see themselves as land stewards after nearly eight years of conservation-minded policies under Democrat Obama. "Public lands have been set aside to 'preserve and protect' cultural and scientific resources for future generations," said Geoff Goins, a National Park Service ranger at the Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, adding that with Trump coming in, "people are concerned about their jobs". Other Interior Dept employees interviewed by Reuters said they feared the agency's environmental mandate would be weakened under Trump, and green advocates said they were bracing to resist those changes. "Climate change is a major focus of conservation concern for national parks," said one National Park Service employee in the Northwest who asked not to be identified. "If (Trump's administration) gets in the way of scientists...we are all in deep trouble"...more

 Are they getting ready to battle? Oh, yes.

Maureen Finnerty, chair of the Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, an organization of more than 1,200 current and former National Parks employees, said it was ready to launch a public relations campaign against Trump if he pursues an anti-environmental agenda. "We will be vigilant and hope for the best," she said.

Who else is on the shortlist?

Governor Butch Otter of Idaho, venture capitalist Robert Grady and US Representatives Cynthia Lummis and Rob Bishop of Wyoming and Utah are also potential candidates for the job.

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