Friday, December 23, 2016
Lessons Zinke can learn from Interior secretaries’ successes and failures
Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke awaits the chance to tell the senators who will consider his nomination why President-elect Donald Trump made a good call picking him to lead the Department of the Interior.
I hope he reaches out to former secretaries from both parties for advice. I have been lucky enough to have interviewed all but one of the Interior leaders since former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus held the job in the 1970s.
Zinke can learn from their experiences, good and bad. He says he will govern in the tradition of President Theodore Roosevelt, who advanced both preservation and wise use of our resources.
Idaho’s Andrus led in that very tradition.
When Andrus told President Jimmy Carter to use the Antiquities Act of 1906 to set aside 56 million acres of Alaska as national monuments, the president was incredulous. “Can I do that?” Carter asked.
“You have the authority, sir,” answered Andrus, according to his memoir.
“Let’s do it,” Carter said.
The monuments forced Alaska’s congressional delegation to cut a deal on the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, setting aside 103 million acres as national parks, wildlife refuges, wild and scenic rivers, and wilderness areas.
The Andrus lesson: Have the ear of the president, work with Congress, but also be bold.
Notice too the leverage the Antiquities Act gives the Executive Branch. In the example given the act was used to "force" Congress to set-aside 103 million acres. The Antiquities Act of 1906 was a tool granted to the Executive Branch by the Congress. Imagine that you loaned a tool to an associate and this associate would on a regular basis knock you in the head with the borrowed tool. Rather than taking a beating every four years or so wouldn't you call in the loan and put an end to the violence? And for the same reason, why hasn't Congress revoked this authority? What a foolish situation.