This West Is OUR West

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

The hook and bullet crowd appears to have a line into President-elect Donald Trump's administration on environmental issues if the selection of Rep. Ryan Zinke for Interior secretary is any indication, Pro's Esther Whieldon and Annie Snider report.

Zinke was among the names groups floated to the president-elect's oldest son Donald Trump Jr., who is himself an avid sportsman. Fears among hunters and anglers about Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' (R-Wash.) stance on public lands likely contributed to her star fading in Trump Tower.

"There was some negative reaction to some of the names that were put forward and those comments were shared all the way to the very, very top," said Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

Other potential candidates included Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. Tester ally's hidden role in Zinke pick: Trump Jr., a lifetime member of the group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, "repeatedly" and "consistently" brought up that group's opposition to McMorris Rodgers appointment to Interior secretary in a meeting with the Washington congresswoman,

POLITICO's Kevin Robillard reports. A PAC and nonprofit run by the group's leader, Land Tawney, spent millions helping moderate Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester win reelection in 2012. But Tawney said it wasn't politics that led his group to promote Zinke for the Interior slot, but actually the freshman Republican's opposition to selling of public lands. Tawney did say he planned on supporting Tester's reelection in 2018, but added "I'll do it as a private citizen."

I hope the very real concerns about Zinke make it back to the Trump campaign. Trump has made very aggressive, pro-business appointments for most other agencies, most notably EPA. But EPA’s rampant abuse of power and tyrannical control over private land is a rather recent phenomenon.

The practice was first perfected by the Corp of Engineers, National Park Service, National Fish and Wildlife Service, BLM and USFS—all departments of the DOI and USDA. It appears the Trump transition team is reserving those two agencies as the throw away appointments with Zinke (for Don Jr.) and the likely appointment of a Democratic Senator from North Dakota for USDA.

I believe these two Departments need to be treated with the same level of concern as EPA but they are not getting the attention in transition EPA is receiving. It is irrelevant that DOI and USDA USFS manage federal land totaling one-third of the Nation’s land.

Those federal lands are littered with numerous property interests in mineral and energy resources, private and public 1866 Mining Act rights of ways, vested water rights, forage rights, private improvements, and numerous inholdings.

For years federal bureaucrats have been systematically doing their level best to eradicate any private interest in those lands in an American version of the Scottish Clan land clearances. Nevada for all practical purposes is a colony of Washington DC. If these two agencies aren’t treated seriously, Trump's efforts to drain the swamp will miss the rural West.

From Public Lands News: Trump eyes Montana’s Zinke as secretary of Interior

The Trump administration December 13 indicated that Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) would be its nominee for the next secretary of Interior. He has generally supported commodity development of the public lands, while demanding retention of the public lands in federal ownership.

Most famously in January 2015 Zinke told the Montana State legislature, “I will not tolerate selling our public lands.”

More recently on June 15 in a House Natural Resources Committee mark-up he voted against a bill (HR 3650) that would have authorized the transfer of up to 2 million acres per state of national forest to a state.

Said Zinke of the bill introduced by senior Republican Don Young (R-Alaska), “I’m starting to wonder how many times I have to tell these guys in leadership I’m not going to allow Montana’s public lands to be sold or given away.”

On the other hand Zinke has consistently supported commodity development on the public lands. Of a final November 15 BLM rule to regulate methane emissions he said the bureau “has issued a duplicative and unnecessary rule against responsible oil and gas development in Montana and on sovereign Tribal lands. This rule is a stark reminder that we need to invest in infrastructure projects like the Keystone pipeline, so we don’t need to flare excess gas.”

Environmentalists criticized the choice of Zinke. “While he has steered clear of efforts to sell off public lands and *supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund, *far more often Rep. Zinke has advanced policies that favor special interests,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society. “His overall record and the backdrop of cabinet nominations with close ties to the fossil fuel industry cause us grave concern.”

But sportsmen were more enthusiastic. Said Backcountry Hunters & Anglers President Land Tawney, “As Montana’s lone representative in the House of Representatives, Mr. Zinke has showed himself to be receptive to the interests of a wide range of constituents and a potential ally of sportsmen and other outdoor recreationists. . .
We’re gratified that the Trump administration is listening to our concerns and showing a willingness to act in the best interests of the American people and our irreplaceable public lands legacy.”

As of last weekend Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) had been considered the frontrunner for the Interior position but President-elect Donald Trump’s son Donald Jr. reportedly preferred Zinke. President-elect Trump and his son have consistently advocated retention of the public lands, despite a Republican Party Platform that proposes divestiture.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration and its Republican allies continue to gear up to reverse regulations and executive orders from the Obama administration. House and Senate Republican leaders are reportedly preparing to use a Congressional Review Act to revoke Obama regulations posted during the last half of this year.

- Chuck Cushman