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Ryan Zinke Loves The Trees. They're Great Cover For Shooting Baby Bears.
Where's Gary Larson when we need him?
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is engaged in a little midterm rebranding, pushing an image of the Interior Department as a friend of conservation, as long as by "conservation" you're talking about making sure there's plenty of animals to hunt, and plenty of places to hunt them in. Parts of nature you can't mine, drill, or shoot at, he's less thrilled by, because who's even using 'em? HuffPo reports Zinke has been trying to mend fences (none of which have "No Hunting" signs) with folks who may have been put off by Interior's emphasis on shrinking national monuments and opening up the coasts to oil drilling.
Mind you, Zinke's's talking about "conservation," which is good and Teddy Roosevelt-y and involves lots of manly hunting of big bold creatures that look great stuffed and mounted in his office, not "environmentalism," which involves scruffy biologists, people who say climate change is a thing, and women who don't shave their legs, just like those scary eco-terrorist lobsters and assault owls the NRA warned about in a (shelved) comic book a yew years back:
Zinke has been calling himself a "Teddy Roosevelt conservationist" forever, of course, even though the real Roosevelt's great-grandson, Theodore Roosevelt IV, has complained that "the old lion" wouldn't approve of Zinke's approach to public lands, not one bit. Particularly since Zinke's version of "conservation" is mostly limited to making trophy hunting easier -- including endangered species -- and allowing "hunters" on federal land in Alaska to shoot bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens with their mamas, just like Jack London never ever dreamed of praising.
Zinke's biggest PR push was unveiled at a recent roundtable with wildlife and hunting groups at Interior Department HQ, where he talked about "reorganizing" the department to emphasize conservation, but not snail darters. E & E News reported that Zinke used the term "grand pivot" several times to make it clear Interior would be shifting from an emphasis on energy development to conservation -- aka hunting -- in the next two years. Stephen Moyer, VP for governmental affairs at Trout Unlimited, told E & E News,
"The fundamental message to us was, 'We did what we needed to do the first year,' in terms of things like energy dominance, monument reviews, those kinds of things. And basically, the message was he knows those weren't very popular with us," Moyer said in an interview.
He added, "I was glad to hear of a change of direction from Mr. Zinke."
The groups in attendance tended toward an emphasis on "sporting," with varying degrees of contention with Interior's plans; no weirdo Sierra Club greenies, althoughDefenders of Wildlife at least got a seat at the table. And here's a surprise: While hunting groups like the National Wild Turkey Federation and Ducks Unlimited were encouraged, if not won over, by Zinke's promise to keep them involved in Interior's future plans, groups with a more general environmental focus were less than enamored.
Mark Tercek, president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy, noted that "we've disagreed with several of [Zinke's] key decisions, such as those about national monuments [and] changes to implementation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that significantly reduce environmental protections."
Tercek said in an email statement that he spoke at the meeting about the Trump administration's fiscal 2019 budget proposal to dramatically slash funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Overall, though, Tercek said he "appreciated the opportunity to meet with Secretary Zinke and his staff to discuss our conservation priorities."
"Overall happy to be included" translates to "at least he gave us the chance to be ignored," but of course they'd like to be invited back to at least be ignored.
Defenders of Wildlife CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark was similarly less than thrilled with the larger agenda Zinke laid out, telling HuffPo that Zinke didn't include non-game or endangered species as anything worth talking about. And why would he, since they aren't profitable or fun to kill?
Zinke’s pivot, she added, seems largely geared toward rebuilding crumbling park infrastructure and reorganizing the agency.
“I didn’t come out of [the meeting] believing that our nation’s natural resources chief steward was either enlightened or energized to conserve biodiversity,” Clark said. “Not at all.”
The National Audubon Society was similarly pleased to be invited, but nonetheless not won over; a week after the meeting, Audubon, Defenders, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the the American Bird Conservancy sued Interior over its "unlawful and arbitrary and capricious" weakening of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Specifically, back in December, Interior's US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that if large numbers of migratory birds were "incidentally" killed by industrial activities like wind turbines, power lines, or oil rigs, that was no longer a violation of the law. Sure, dead birds are a bummer, but from now on, Fish and Wildlife would only prosecute intentional deaths of migratory birds, so suck it. The environmental group says the Migratory Bird Treaty Act doesn't actually make any such distinction, so Interior can't just go after murders of crows, it has to prosecute birdslaughter, too.
On the other hand, the National Autobahn Society thinks Zinke's doing a bang-up job.
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