Friday, July 27, 2018

The dinosaur that ate Ryan Zinke

Alexander Nazaryan

The dinosaur was a Lythronax, a fearsome predator who lived 80 million years ago. Known as the “King of Gore,” it spent its days feasting upon smaller dinosaurs on the continent of Laramidia. The dinosaur died and so did, eventually, all of its brethren. The land morphed, too, and Laramidia became part of what is today the western United States. In 2009, the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees federal lands, discovered remains of the long-departed king in Utah, on land that is part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. A replica of the skull sits in the office of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, next to a framed picture of Theodore Roosevelt and a tasseled leather notebook, of the sort where one might jot down poetic ruminations while camping out on the high desert of the true West. Earlier this summer, Zinke tweeted a picture of this well-curated tableau, using the occasion of the latest entry in the “Jurassic Park” franchise to offer a mini-lesson:



But if Zinke thought that a dinosaur emoji might curry favor with his audience, he was grievously mistaken. “That specimen was found in a national monument you shrunk so you could sell mining rights,” one user said. “How dare you display this find when you refuse to protect the ones still in the ground, you pathetic grifter.” Zinke had long been among President Trump’s most controversial Cabinet members, with the number of ethical scandals plaguing his administration nearly approaching that of Scott Pruitt, the baroquely corrupt administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency who resigned in early July. Zinke’s tweet — and the furious response it engendered — crystalized one of the criticisms of his tenure, namely that he celebrates his own image as a conservationist frontiersman, even as he effectively gives away lands rich with dinosaur remains and archeological treasures to mining companies and other business concerns...MORE

 That was not a brilliant post by Zinke, but his critics are perpetuating the myth that the dynosaur remains and other artifacts are only protected because of the national monument. They conveniently forget that since Antiquities Act of 1906, Congress has passed the Historic Sites Act of 1935, National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of1966, Archeological and Historic Preservation Act (AHPA) of 1974, Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) of 1979, and the Native AmericanGraves Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990.  Review those statutes and you will see the Secretary of Interior has an abundance of authority to survey, identify, study and preserve any site or object of archeological significance. Further, under Section 204 of FLPMA, the Secretary has the authority to withdraw areas from all forms of disposal and from all mining and mineral leasing. A National Monument designation is not necessary to protect these areas, as all the agencies have to do is implement existing law. And all of those laws apply to any of the land removed from the national monument.

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