Get ready for a rush to plunder our public lands.
In the red-rock country of southern Utah, not far from Bryce Canyon National Park, the state’s only strip coal mine occupies several hundred acres of private property. For over a decade Alton Coal Development, the company behind the Coal Hollow mine, has tried to expand its footprint onto an adjacent parcel of public land containing some 50 million tons of federally owned coal. The expansion could disturb thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, raise air pollution, and send 300 trucks rumbling down the area’s two-lane highways each day. Standing in the way is a moratorium on the troubled federal coal-leasing program that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell enacted earlier this year. With the election of Donald Trump, the management of America’s public lands could shift, altering the landscape in southern Utah and across the Western United States. Extractive projects like the Coal Hollow expansion that have stalled or been rejected under the Obama administration could be given new life. They include drilling in the Arctic, in the North Atlantic, in the forests of Colorado, and around Glacier National Park; uranium mining at the edges of the Grand Canyon; and ramped-up logging in the national forests of the Pacific Northwest. Trump and his pick to lead the Interior Department, Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, have invoked Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation legacy, and made mention of a desire to protect natural resources. (Zinke has not said yet whether he’ll accept the post.) But Trump also campaigned on a promise to “unleash” domestic energy production, and his team in Washington is stacked with oil, gas, and coal interests who have long sought greater access to public lands. On Tuesday, Trump promised to “cancel the restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean beautiful coal.” The moratorium on the federal coal leases will probably be one of the first things to go...more
And EcoWatch provides the following:
In his first term as a Congressman he has voted to:
- Weaken controls on air and water pollution in national parks
- Lift the federal ban on crude oil exports
- Undermine protections for endangered species
- De-fund efforts to clean up Chesapeake Bay
In 2015 the League of Conservation Voters gave Zinke a bottom-of-the-barrel 3 percent score for his environmental record. He would have scored zero but for his one positive vote against cutting off funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
- Weaken the Antiquities Act by limiting the president's ability to designate new national monuments
Unfortunately, this Washington Post column may be the most accurate:
The names on Trump’s shortlist for interior secretary were downright frightening to those in the conservation community: former Alaska governor Sara Palin, Texas oil tycoon Forrest Lucas, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, and two of Congress’s leading anti-public-lands zealots, Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho). But this week’s surprise announcement that Rep. Ryan Zinke, a first-term Montana Republican, has been tapped for the position is reason for many in the conservation community to break out the champagne... Zinke’s record on public lands puts him out of step with the GOP’s ideological warriors. During his time in the Montana legislature, he was known as a moderate and enjoyed a good working relationship with Democrats on issues such as land banking, a conservation strategy of swapping hard- or impossible-to-access public land with areas that are easier to reach. He also played a key role in a local conservation effort in his home town. In Congress, Zinke supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund and repeatedly opposed efforts to sell off public land. He also resigned as a delegate at Republican National Convention over the party platform’s call for transferring land to the states. Regardless of what may be expressed in news releases, behind the scenes, many environmentalists recognize that Zinke — as a supporter of public land and a mainstream Republican on fossil fuels — is the best they could reasonably hope for under the incoming administration. That Zinke’s nomination is what passes for good news these days may be an indication of how far right the Republican Party has moved on public lands. But it also reflects that the probable interior secretary is someone many conservationists see as a pragmatist rather than an ideologue, who understands the sacred value many Westerners place on public lands and who, above all, was perhaps the only acceptable option on a disturbing shortlist of candidates.