By Alec Carmichael
I Digress 

What Is Zinke Doing?


December 13, 2017

The decision to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monuments came as no surprise to the Utah delegation, Utah Republicans, and those familiar with Washington swamp creatures and horse traders.

Nor did it surprise those who look to develop those regions for industry and mining. It was a surprise to some observers to see Ryan Zinke go along with the idea in such a rank and file manner that one could hardly remember the lowly outsider who stood up to the Republican Party’s position on selling off federal lands.

Both Outdoor Life and Outside Magazine ran scathing profiles of the lone Cabinet Secretary from Montana who is unrelenting in telling all who will listen about his admiration and emulation of Theodore Roosevelt. His critics are quick to point out that nothing Ryan Zinke has done has been anywhere close to the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, but he continues nonetheless.

The truly concerning thing about Ryan Zinke is how quickly he abandoned the character of a Montana do-no-wrong conservative in apparent hopes of appeasing the Trump machine, and riding the wave to power. Even if riding that wave means abandoning the same principles that spurred him to resign as a National Republican Convention Delegate, or to be an ardent defender of public lands and public access. True he has merely reshuffled lands back to other agencies, but in doing so has opened up those lands to the development of fossil fuels and other mining operations. Worst still his justification was that he did it in the name of ensuring hunters’ access. Hunters’ already have access to many National Monuments. Hunters’ do not however have access to Oil and Natural Gas drilling sites (guns and flammable materials do not mix), nor do they have access to other mineral mine sites.

The story is the same for all other access issues. Grazing lands, and development by industry actually harm public access and hunting access due to the need to protect equipment, livestock and everything else that goes along with industrial development.

Zinke neglected to address those issues, but insisted he had public access, hunting and fishing in mind when reducing the monuments in scope and size. I think people have seen the truth in what happened in Utah, and I think Zinke has abandoned the values he once championed on behalf of Montana. The only question is what will Zinke’s legacy be, and will it do justice to Montana?


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