By James Beers
Congressman Ryan Zinke, Republican Representative for the entire state of Montana, has been named by President-elect Trump as his pick for the Secretary of the Interior.
I subsequently received the following inquiry (along with many others) from a group for whom I have high regard. It is with honest forethought that I respond to this question recognizing that it is probably not in my personal best interest to do so. The reason for this being my long-standing enthusiastic support and bias for President-elect Trump and the fact that at the urging of more than a few acquaintances I sent a resume to the Trump Transition Team for any role –full, part-time or advisory that they might use someone with my record and talents. While I had several friends that then sent my resume to Transition Team acquaintances and some potential candidates for the Secretary Appointment, I claimed no personal preferences, endorsements, or “dog in the race”. I still find all the named candidates in this transition to have strengths and weaknesses that overall make any of them far better that any Secretary of the Interior since the three (Watt, Clark & Hodel) under President Reagan. While an honest answer here will probably torpedo any active role in this Administration for an old guy like me, I trust it will not diminish any consideration they or the public might give to future recommendations I may write or speak about.
– Q. I have concerns about this cabinet pick. Xxxx tells me they were on his ag advisory committee and he is definitely NOT in favor of turning federal lands back to the states. I also wonder about his background and will wikepedia him next. Any ideas on how we should proceed?
First of all, I am an enthusiastic Trump supporter and during these times of his every move evoking more incomings than Fort Sumter, I am loathe to add anything to the barrage he is already experiencing.
Secondly, Congressman Zinke certainly seems sensible; what the English used to term a “hail fellow well met”. The two interviews I saw were impressive and left the urban New York interviewers pleased and laughing. Add to this, his service as a Seal and his being a fellow Naval Officer and, as with President Trump, I find it hard to express negative observations.
This morning’s Wall Street Journal has given me pause for thought on what lies ahead for federal oppressions and “how we should proceed” as I ponder the question.
The following is an excerpted copy of the WSJ article with my observations italicized in parentheses.
Donald Trump Jr. Played a Key Role in Interior Pick
Dec. 15, 2016 6:36 p.m. ET
Donald Trump Jr. heavily influenced his father’s decision to fill the post of interior secretary with Rep. Ryan Zinke, a one-term congressman who shares the younger Trump’s enthusiasm for hunting, say people familiar with the pick.
(So far so good.)
Zinke, Montana’s sole House member and a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, resigned as a delegate to the GOP’s convention this past summer because its platform calls for a transfer of federally owned wilderness lands to the states. That is a position favored by most Republicans, including Ms. McMorris Rodgers, but the president-elect and his son, an avid hunter, oppose it.
(No matter your stand on returning federal lands to the states, it is a bargaining chip of the first order for anyone interested in making ANY progress in reducing federal overreach and reviving rural America. Also, note the “wilderness” with a small “w”. Does she mean “Wilderness-designated lands” with a capital “W” or did Zinke and Donald Trump Jr. use that term? The difference being; if it is a typical urban observation that all that “out there” is “wilderness” replete with wolves, grizzly bears and free-roaming buffalo then it has no significance: if Ryan and Donald used it, it suggests that they are prepared to argue that those are the “most sacred”, “most unique’’ etc. acres and under no circumstances should their status be changed. This is just the opposite of what is likely to happen. The non-“Wilderness” acres would be gradually transferred and the status, management and uses of “Wilderness” acres questioned; to reverse this is simply what Hitchcock called a “MacGuffin” or diversionary device that serves no purpose.)
“The federal government needs to do a much better job of managing our resources, but the sale or transfer of our land is an extreme proposal, and I won’t tolerate it,” Mr. Zinke said at a June congressional hearing.
(This is very troubling. The federal government has proven over the last 25 years that it is no longer capable of this task and indeed is the source of the mismanagement and harms that helped elect President-elect Trump. Asking the current US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service or the US Forest Service (although in the Department of Agriculture) to begin doing a “much better job of managing our resources” is truly and accurately like asking:
Animal Control Officers to surrender their guns and extraordinary Police Powers and notify Local Police of suspected violations; or
School teachers to begin teaching wild animal and plant management that benefits rural communities and generates taxes and Local control of Local issues; or
University professors to refuse government funding that influences both “science” and political dialogue; or
Federal and State bureaucrats to take a pay cut or retirement reduction and return to a hiring/promotion/bonus system free of race and sex classifications and preferences.
In other words, none of these things can happen with the current workforces in place and while the current laws and practices that spawned and protect them remain in place. All of these bureaucracies have been staffed with ideologues that not only do not know how to “manage our resources”, they are actually mentally and physically opposed to “managing our resources” and will fight with all the motivation of disgruntled Middle Eastern refugees to create their alternative view of the world that we should all live in.
You do not have to sell or transfer land; you need to restore State and Local influence over resource management in the States and Local communities where federal lands are located. That is done by giving State governments (the one closer to the residents) certain controls or influence over federal appropriations and federal programs in their jurisdiction. Local governments (the ones closest to the people) will influence the states actions because the Local people will control the Local government. The threat of eventually transferring the federal estate to the State is the threat if satisfactory accommodations cannot be achieved. People that aver their trump card like this are reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain “dealing” with Hitler or Ukrainians bargaining with Stalin in the early 1930’s.)
The president-elect’s children have urged him to seize broadly on environmental conservation as a potentially defining issue for his presidency. The younger Mr. Trump has a longtime interest in preserving wilderness areas for hunting and fishing, and Mr. Zinke’s own opposition to selling off federal lands stems from his concern that it would mean less access to public lands for outdoor sports.
(See (or request) my “Rural America Needs the Electoral College” article of 1 December regarding rural harms as urban bribes. “Environmental conservation” and “preserving wilderness” are dog whistles for the urban voters President Trump will be seeking over the next four years. They (and the radical environmental/animal rights organizations and the current bureaucrats, professors, et al) hear more land acquisition, more land easement, more land control and more land = more authority, more jurisdiction, more budgets, more employees and more of everything down the road.)
There is something of a split in the environmental movement between those, like Messrs. Zinke and Trump Jr., who favor preserving wilderness areas mostly for hunting and fishing, and a more mainstream group that emphasizes such issues as protecting endangered species and keeping natural lands pristine.
(Well said in an urban fashion; scary to rural residents with less political heft in many states; and something that is to be resolved one way or the other. There is no solution similar to Solomon splitting the baby to be had here.)_
Apart from the public lands issue, Mr. Zinke supports traditional GOP positions on the environment. He backed the Keystone XL pipeline, for example, and opposed a recent Interior Department rule setting standards for emissions of methane from oil and natural-gas wells on public lands.
The president-elect, following his children’s urging, is showing signs of embracing the notion of following in the footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president who protected roughly 230 million acres of public lands.
“Honoring the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt—believe it or not, one of our great environmentalists—we’ll also be able to preserve and protect our natural resources for the next generation, including protecting land and anglers and hunters and all of those who enjoy the outdoors like my sons Don and Eric,” Mr. Trump said earlier this month in a speech in North Carolina.
(If the implication of rivalling or exceeding TR’s acreage “protection” circa 1900 (that has ultimately turned out to be mostly “closure” and “non-management”) in a USA 100-plus years later and hundreds of millions more people more doesn’t scare you, I must admit it does me. The current federal (and many States as well) bureaucracies are no more able, willing or qualified to “preserve and protect our natural resources for the next generation, including protecting land and anglers and hunters and all of those who enjoy the outdoors” than the Little Sisters of the Poor are capable of playing the Chicago Bears,)
The younger Mr. Trump spoke at length about his interest in preservation issues, and his influence with his father when it comes to them, in an onstage interview at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership in Colorado this summer.
Outdoor groups based in Montana that have known and worked with Mr. Zinke for years and talked him up weeks ago to the younger Mr. Trump
“With McMorris Rodgers becoming more and more real, sportsmens’ groups pushed back,” said Land Tawney, president and chief executive of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, a Montana-based group that counts the younger Mr. Trump as a lifetime member.
(This is disturbing. The TR Conservation Partnership is one of many modern such organizations that wine and dine with the bureaucracies and the radical groups while swapping jobs and grants and fostering a persona of “fighting” for (insert your group here). Like Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited et al they spend their funds like the Clinton Foundation and send out glossies of faux accomplishments. These groups are political hermaphrodites entertaining both Democrats and Republicans for the same end, i.e. expanding government controls by bureaucracies enforcing and regulating for their narrow interests. One need look no further than the crickets heard from these groups for 25 years about windmills killing birds by the millions while birds by the pair at a taxidermist or one dead on the ground can get you and me put in prison unlike the Indian that killed a wolf in Minnesota not long ago and the federal government refused to prosecute. Finally, Montana has some very green organizations that masquerade as cowboy/Orvis clothes models while wielding strong political power. They seem to already be displaying a prevalent influence here.)
In summary, I do not sense any commitment for change, only more of the same. Although I was prepared and hopeful for an Administration that could change things for far into the future by changing laws and making hard choices, I have forebodings about this and especially as McConnell is already balking about passing a stimulus as Trump had promised and Ryan is already waffling about a “wall” as Trump had promised. What I fear is four years about arguing for short-term “feel-good” things and either four or eight years down the road the bureaucrats and long-term pols at the behest of the urban radicals will take off from where we are now with a vengeance.
Targeting the “Number” of regulations is meaningless in this government land business, unless you repeal, amend, or limit (as I suggested) these unjust laws, “reducing regulations” is no more than lipstick on a pig. Unless you restore state and local government authorities and jurisdictions the feds will just grow and grow like that exploding fat guy John Cleese serves in the Monty Python movie, “The Meaning of Life”. Anybody that believes that keeping this federal estate whole under the current bureaucracies’ policies will not mean LESS hunting and fishing (along with a whole lot of other harms from fires, predators and economic strangulation of the rural American economy) doesn’t deserve the right to vote in a Constitutional Republic.
We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and to quote the Matrix movie, “he’s not the one”
16 December 2016
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Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC. He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands. He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC. He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority. He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.
Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting.
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