Environment

Zinke Wants to Open Up Protected Lands for Development

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

According to the Washington Post, Interior Department secretary and frequent flyer Ryan Zinke has been conducting talks in secret about rolling back a ban on development in federal protected wildlife refuges.

Zinke is reportedly considering allowing the construction of a 12 mile road in the middle of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska that will connect to a small town of 925 people in the Aleutian Islands. But critics are rightfully worried that this would be just the beginning.

“If they can pull this off in Alaska, the entire Lower 48 is at risk,” said Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark, whose group obtained documents detailing Interior’s efforts under the Freedom of Information Act.

Those documents, primarily internal agency emails, reveal how much discussion is intentionally taking place out of public view as federal, state, local and tribal officials work to approve a land exchange. Were the targeted terrain owned by the King Cove Corporation, that would clear the way for construction through the refuge to join up roads on either side.

The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge was created by President Eisenhower in 1960 and the small village has somehow managed to survive all this time without building a road through the middle of a sanctuary.

Now, local officials may be sincere in their want and need to build a road, but I am extremely skeptical that this fringe concern has drawn this kind of attention from Zinke for purely altruistic reasons.

It seems more plausible to me that Zinke's goal is to slowly chip away protections for federal wilderness across the entire country, not just for one small village. That would be consistent with Zinke's desire and recommendation to reduce the size and scope of our national monuments.

  • Aynwrong

    Hilariously enough, Zinke is from Montana, which of course voted for Trump thus helping to empower Zinke into this position. I say hilariously because fear of losing public lands is very real in Montana. Though I doubt there will ever be any serious reflection on this in the state that not only voted for the Tangerine Mussolini, but Greg Gianforte even after he assaulted a reporter for doing his job.

    It would be a terrible shame if citizens of Montana lost access to public lands, but for those who voted for Trump, it’s their own damned fault.

  • ninjaf

    To them, anything that is publicly owned is up for sale. It is only a resource for industry to plunder and does not belong to all of the United States’ citizens.

    Fuck the Electoral College that abdicated their Constitutional responsibility and voted to install this administration to power. And fuck the Republican House and Senate for failing daily to reign them in because tax cuts for their donors are too damn important.

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  • Dread_Pirate_Mathius

    Because fuck the environment, am I right?