Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump Jr’s pick for Interior Secretary, testified before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources yesterday.
The good news?
During the proceedings, there were notable mentions of AFFTA and TRCP, and Zinke broke from his Dennis the Menace impersonating boss by saying he did not believe that global warming was a hoax. A statement that was immediately praised in social media by public lands groups and related trade associations.
The bad news?
Zinke made a promise to Utah Senator Mike Lee to visit Utah, meet with state officials, and then report back to the President with recommendations regarding Obama’s Bears Ears National Monument designation. Take note the Bears Ears decision was also praised by the same public land and trade groups. To his credit, Zinke testified that rolling back a President’s National Monument designation under the Antiquities Act would likely trigger a legal challenge. It’s also worth noting that he left the door open to recommending that very thing to the future leader of the free world. That line of questioning and related testimony can be found at 1:40:31 in the archived video and that testimony should be called out by his current public land loving fan base.
In Zinke’s opening statement, he called himself an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt. Apparently for Congressman Zinke, admiring Teddy doesn’t translate into acting like Teddy since the Congressman received an F in the 2016 National Parks Conservation Fund Congressional Scorecard. This scorecard assessed members of the 114th Congress based on key votes concerning National Parks funding, important preservation tools like the Antiquities Act, and protections for water and wildlife.
While NPCF wasn’t dishing out scorecards in Teddy’s day, we’d venture a guess that he may have scored better than Zinke’s F since Teddy established 5 National Parks, 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, and 18 national monuments. All told, Teddy protected approximately 230 million acres of public land during his presidency. How was he able to protect much of this land? The Antiquities Act, the very same law that Zinke would undermine if he fights the Bears Ears designation.
All in all, it’s good to see that Zinke says he will buck his party when it comes to protecting some public lands. And I guess it’s reassuring that he isn’t a conspiracy theorist who thinks climate change is a hoax. But we’re setting a pretty low bar when we applaud the potential Secretary of Interior for saying he doesn’t want to steal public lands and for somewhat agreeing with 98% of the world’s leading climate scientists.
So for now, can we please stop talking like Zinke and Teddy Roosevelt are somehow related because Zinke is a Montanan that likes to shoot animals, catch fish, and talk about Teddy Roosevelt? Once we get beyond that and look at their complete records (not just their hobbies and opinions on public land sales), it is abundantly clear that on the “conservation spectrum” Zinke is much closer to the horrific Rob Bishop than he is to the iconic Theodore Roosevelt.
For the sake of all of us and the wild places we love, let’s hope that changes…