FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again

If looting the Treasury and pillaging the nation’s non-renewable resources was the goal of Ryan Zinke, Montana’s former congressman appointed secretary of the Interior by President Trump, he’s doing a heck of a job. But after a year in office, the scandals, abuse of public resources and over-the-top pandering to extractive industries have put Zinke on the hot seat time and again, with a host of new problems boiling over just last week. For Montanans, a once-great chance to showcase our state’s dedication to stewardship of public lands and waters has turned into a huge ongoing embarrassment.

Late last week the Guardian broke the story that Kathleen Benedetto, Zinke’s appointee as “senior adviser,” has had twice as many meetings with representatives of extractive industries as conservation interests. While it’s certainly to be expected that those in charge of the millions of acres of lands and waters the Bureau of Land Management oversees would meet with the various interests in how our public lands are managed — or mismanaged — the decisions emanating from those meetings have definitely favored resource extraction over conservation.

In Benedetto’s own words: “A large amount of federal estate is being managed for conservation purposes” — which she says limits other uses. Tough to argue with that, since conservation has always had an uphill struggle against those who would plunder public lands for private profit.

Unfortunately in Benedetto’s case, conservation appears to come dead last as a national priority. She was instrumental in the decision to abdicate the sage grouse conservation plan in favor of oil and gas extraction. And then there’s the recent decision to rescind an Obama-era decision to not reissue leases to Twin Metals Minnesota — a Chilean-owned mining corporation — to open a copper and nickel mine on the border of the famed Boundary Waters Wilderness Area. After a series of meetings with mining representatives and their lobbyists, Benedetto ignored pleas from conservationists over concerns about the impacts such a large-scale mining operation would have on the vast inter-connected waterways and the positive economic benefits they generate.

Considering the “perpetual pollution” from mining operations Montana now struggles with, one may have expected Zinke to overrule Benedetto. But that didn’t happen since, as becomes clearer every day, the Trump administration is all about plundering as many public resources as quickly as possible and the future be damned.

If this reeks of the same industry-led assault resulting in extreme downsizing of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bear’s Ears national monuments, there’s good reason. The New York Times went to court to obtain a series of emails and memos that show oil, gas and coal interest communications that actually wound up defining the final boundaries. This despite Zinke promising that “everyone’s voice is heard” and telling reporters that: “We also have a pretty good idea of, certainly, the oil and gas potential — not much! So Bears Ears isn’t really about oil and gas.”

Finally, there’s last week’s revelation that Zinke is spending $139,000 to replace two doors in his office, which raised eyebrows even in big-spending Washington, D.C. Zinke claims he didn’t know about it. Then again, he’s already under investigation by the Inspector General for excessive travel expenses, use of planes, going to political events and meetings with campaign donors, so given his track record on truthfulness and ethics, one might question his denial.

Recalling the giants of public policy Montana has sent to Washington, such as Lee Metcalf and Mike Mansfield, having Ryan Zinke debase both their ethical and conservation legacies is truly a shameful tragedy for all Montanans.

More articles by:

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail