In 2019, Congress passed a package of public lands bills deemed the “Natural Resources Management Act.” Not only does the legislation create new protections for more than 2.4 million acres of public lands, but the vote also reauthorizes and provides funding for two federal programs critical to wildlife conservation—the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.
Former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt advanced drilling and mining and stripped wildlife protections as Interior Deputy Secretary, an agenda rejected by voters in his home state of Colorado.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke promised to run “the most transparent Interior” in his lifetime. The reality was the complete opposite. Zinke suspended local advisory councils, ignored public comments from millions of Americans, and was put under investigation for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act’s ban on mixing political and official events. In yet another example of Zinke’s ethical lapses, he attempted to deflect attention from a scandal around a development deal involving him, his wife Lola, a microbrewery, and David Lesar, the chairman of oil services giant Halliburton—by claiming ignorance.
During his stint as Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke unabashedly promoted oil, gas, and coal over public interests. He stacked advisory panels with oil and gas industry executives, eliminated more than 2 million acres of national monuments to allow more development, and made nearly 12 million acres of public lands available for drilling. A CWP review and analysis of official Interior Department documents show that oil, gas, and coal companies could reap up to $3 billion in savings over the next decade at the public’s expense.
One of the most pivotal pieces of conservation legislation ever passed, the Antiquities Act allows the president to directly preserve “objects of historic and scientific interest” as national monuments. Since its inception in 1906, 16 presidents have protected 157 monuments under its authority. While national parks are designated exclusively through congressional legislation, 28 of the nation’s 59 national parks were first preserved as national monuments using the Antiquities Act.
Early in the Trump administration, the number two official at Interior, Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, was set to grant the wishes of one of his former clients, a massive oil and gas trade association, by gutting critical conservation plans for the imperiled sage-grouse.
In their own words: Interior Department admits it’s helping oil and gas companies at the expense of taxpayers, clean air
In 2018, at the direction of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the Bureau of Land Management announced it would effectively eliminate a rule designed to reduce wasted natural gas from drilling operations on public lands. Zinke justified eliminating the BLM methane waste rule by saying oil and gas companies will benefit more from methane pollution than the public will be hurt by it.
In 2018, after Interior Secretary Zinke announced his intent to eviscerate collaborative land management plans that balance sage-grouse conservation with energy development, Westerners asked him to honor the deal that was struck and leave the plans alone.
The Grand Canyon is many things to many people—one of the seven wonders of the natural world, the sacred homeland of Native American tribes, and a vacation destination for millions. For the Trump administration, it’s a source of uranium, a radioactive mineral with a lingering legacy in the American Southwest. Even though deposits within the region are unimpressive, the Trump administration has taken steps to open up the doorstep of the Grand Canyon to uranium mining.
At the end of 2017, the Trump administration took advantage of the holidays to bury a staggering amount of bad news. 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.