Trump’s Interior Secretary is taking official steps to help the insurrection on his way out of office

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Blinkofaneye, CC-NC 2.0 / Tyler Merbler, CC-BY 2.0

In the days following the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the Center for Western Priorities and others highlighted the straight line that exists from the anti-government extremists at the Bundy Ranch and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to the violence in Washington that was encouraged by President Trump and his administration. It’s now clear that the events at Malheur were a dress rehearsal for the deadly violence at the Capitol.

Aside from Trump himself, no one in the cabinet is more responsible for…

[UPDATED APRIL 13] Interior Secretary David Bernhardt opened or closed at least 34 public comment periods despite widespread calls for a halt to rulemakings and major actions

Antlers in Oolah Valley, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
Antlers in Oolah Valley, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
Oolah Valley, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Cadence Cook, National Park Service

[UPDATE: This analysis was originally published on April 7, 2020. The list of Interior Department actions was updated on April 13 with an additional eight actions, bringing the total number of actions taken during the Coronavirus crisis to 65. The new actions include a final resource management plan for Western Colorado that ignored local requests and 40,000 public comments calling for land protection, instead paving the way for unfettered oil and gas drilling in the North Fork Valley. …

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Department of the Interior

The new Interior Secretary picks up where Ryan Zinke left off

Just one week into his tenure as Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt is already facing at least two formal investigations into his conduct. Interior’s Inspector General is examining “numerous” complaints into whether Bernardt violated ethics rules by helping his former clients, and the National Archives and Records Administration is looking into whether Bernhardt ordered the destruction of calendar records that could have shown him meeting with those clients.

Some of the ethics complaints are focused on Westlands Water District, a former client of Bernhardt’s that has long sought to weaken endangered species protections in California. …

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Clockwise from Left: Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM), Representative-elect Katie Hill (CA), Governor-elect Jared Polis (CO), State Land Commissioner-elect Stephanie Garcia Richard (NM), Sen. Jon Tester (MT)

The 2018 midterm elections were a big win for candidates who campaigned on behalf of public lands. These candidates ended up winning races in nearly every Western state where public lands are top of mind for voters. Here are just some of the messages they used in ads on the campaign trail:

Candidates who specifically campaigned on public lands in TV ads in the above video and won their races include:

Arizona: Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema

California: Representative-elect Katie Hill and Senator Dianne Feinstein

Colorado: Governor-elect Jared Polis

Montana: Senator Jon Tester and Representative Greg Gianforte

Nevada: Governor-elect Steve Sisolak

Ryan Zinke’s claims of ignorance are undermined by his own emails

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Google Earth/Wikimedia Commons

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is attempting to deflect attention from the growing scandal around a development deal involving him, his wife Lola, and David Lesar, the chairman of oil services giant Halliburton — by claiming ignorance.

In Politico’s latest update on the proposed development in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana, Zinke for the first time addresses the impending investigation directly, telling reporter Ben Lefebvre:

“Neither myself or my wife were involved in the city’s approval of the development that included among other facilities, a microbrewery on the developer’s property adjacent to the proposed parking lot. Neither my wife or I…

The Interior secretary makes it a full day of lying to reporters

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on KYYA radio in Billings | Twitter

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who now faces an unprecedented number of investigations, went on a mini-media tour in his home state of Montana on Wednesday. Even though Zinke faced no hard questions about his ethical lapses, the secretary managed to unleash a stunning number of misleading statements and outright falsehoods that went unchallenged by his interviewers. Here are the biggest whoppers:

On payments to Western counties

Source: Montana Talks radio

Claim: “Today actually, we’re announcing the PILT grants. …

Statistical analysis of public comments shows near-unanimous opposition to rule change that would allow more venting and flaring of publicly-owned natural gas

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North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality

With hours remaining in the public comment period on the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to gut the Methane Waste Rule, a new analysis of comments posted to shows near unanimous opposition to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s plans.

As of Monday afternoon, BLM had received more than 407,000 comments on the proposed rule change, with over 130,000 of those comments posted online.

The Center for Western Priorities performed a sentiment analysis on a random sample of 2,000 of those comments, and found 99.8 percent of them were opposed to the proposed rollback of the Methane Waste Rule. Just 0.2…

Security risks and rank hypocrisy

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies before the House Natural Resources Committee, March 15, 2018

A trove of emails released under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke regularly uses a private email account to conduct official Interior Department business.

The emails, which were first reported by Politico Pro on Wednesday, show Zinke corresponding dozens of times with his assistant, Caroline Boulton, using two email addresses: his official Interior Department account, which is partially redacted, and a personal account, which is fully redacted. Here they are side-by-side:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke kept himself busy while while you were on vacation

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Lolita, Ryan, and Ragnar “Ambassador of Happiness” Zinke | YouTube

It’s no secret that politicians love to use holiday breaks to bury bad news. The “Friday news dump” is a tradition that even earned its own episode of The West Wing 18 years ago. But over the past two weeks, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke dumped a staggering number of pieces of trash on the American people.

Unsurprisingly, many of the actions Secretary Zinke and the Interior Department took over the holidays were a gift to oil, gas, coal, and mining companies around the globe. Here’s what Ryan Zinke hoped you wouldn’t notice:

1) He repealed fracking regulations that protected public lands

The 2015 rule would have required companies to…

The Interior Secretary deploys alternative facts at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is trying as hard as he can to defend the indefensible — the largest-ever reduction of public lands protections in American history.

In the days after President Trump signed a proclamation that attempted to remove more than two million acres from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monuments, Secretary Zinke has used a set of egregious false and misleading talking points in the media.

Here are the biggest whoppers from Secretary Zinke’s recent op-ed and Fox Business interview with Stuart Varney:

Zinke: “There’s not one square inch of land that’s removed from federal protection.”


Aaron Weiss

Deputy Director | Center for Western Priorities | Twitter: @aweiss

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