Voters don’t trust Ryan Zinke on national monuments — and for good reason

New poll exposes rift between voters and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

Monumental Rally at the Utah State Capitol | © Tim Peterson

A new Morning Consult/Politico poll shows voters do not trust U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke with decisions on the future of America’s national monuments. When choosing from a number of options, poll participants ranked Secretary Zinke in last place, with only 6 percent of registered voters placing their trust in him.

Voters instead trust the views of local residents, whose message to Secretary Zinke is clear: hands off our national monuments. Indeed, a Center for Western Priorities analysis of public comments submitted to the Department of Interior revealed 98 percent expressed support for keeping or expanding national monument designations.

Why is trust in Secretary Zinke so low?

One likely cause is his “Magic 8-Ball” approach to the monuments review. Zinke has paid lip service to hearing public input from all sides, but his meetings with stakeholders in monument communities have been selective. He has excluded the many business, recreation, conservation and tribal voices who depend on national monuments for their economy, heritage and way of life, and want them to remain unchanged. And when public input has not been to Zinke’s liking, he has arbitrarily changed the process, hoping for a different answer.

Trust in Zinke may also be plummeting because the public sees his monuments review for what it really is: a giveaway to special interests who want to open up national monuments to coal mining and oil drilling — an unpopular idea among voters.

The poll found 64 percent of voters oppose allowing more mining and drilling on public lands, and 60 percent oppose shrinking national parks and monuments in order to open more spaces for energy production. Notably, the poll also found that, among regions, protecting public lands enjoys the strongest support in the West.

With his own personal trust at the floor and his misguided plan to eliminate national monuments so deeply disliked, maybe it’s finally time for Secretary Zinke to listen to the West?