Department of the Interior

Cooper McKim

  

Energy companies, environmentalists, ranchers and government officials are getting back together at meetings across the West this fall to talk about the fate of a chicken-like bird.

 

Many of these so-called stakeholders have sat at this table before. The well-being of the Greater Sage Grouse was the focus of a hard-fought compromise among 11 states, finalized a few years ago.

 

Sage Grouse Implementation Team meeting, 09/15/17
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

The sage grouse implementation team met for the first time since the Department of Interior announced recommendations to a collaborative state and federal Obama era plan. But early last month, DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended changes to the plan that would loosen restrictions on energy development while giving states more flexibility in implementing their own sage grouse protection plans.

A greater sage-grouse male struts for a female at a lek (dancing or mating ground) near Bridgeport, CA
Jeannie Stafford / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is concerned about the Interior Department’s recommendations to the sage grouse conservation plans. The federal agency released a report this week outlining recommendations to the 2015 plan, including giving states more leniency in enforcing the rules and changing the focus from habitat management to population goals.

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Sacramento, US

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to make fundamental changes to a sage grouse conservation plan adopted under the Obama administration. They could make it easier for ranchers and energy companies to move into sagebrush habitat that’s now off limits. 

The sign at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Wikimedia Commons: Guerillero

The Department of Interior will contribute $53 million to the National Park Service this year with funds going to 42 parks including Grand Teton and Yellowstone. The goal of the incoming money will be to address high priority maintenance projects. For Yellowstone, that means improving trails, retaining walls, and overlooks for the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Stephanie Joyce

Newly minted Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke just took a massive step towards streamlining the permitting process for oil and gas drilling on federal lands. Wyoming lawmakers love the move, but Democrats fear it’s a dangerous first step down a slippery slope.   

United States Department of the Interior

The Department of Interior is facing budget cuts of $1.6 billion. A summary of the proposed budget shows reductions in wildlife management while boosting funds for oil and gas development. Conservationists say this will have an effect here in Wyoming.

The proposed budget would reduce funding for endangered species, fisheries and wildlife management including almost $30 million less for sage grouse protection. It would also increase funds for programs ensuring oil and gas management while reducing permitting fees.

Wikimedia Commons - Paul Lenz

In his last days in office, President Obama adopted a ban on lead ammunition for hunting to protect scavengers from lead poisoning. Last week, as one of his first acts in office, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lifted that ban.

Numerous scientific studies show that eagles, ravens, condors and other scavengers that feed on carcasses killed with lead bullets have a much higher likelihood of lead poisoning. Natural Science curator Charles Preston at the Draper Museum in Cody said that can cause problems with bird reproduction and can even kill them.

Wikimedia Commons

President Elect Donald Trump has reportedly asked Montana U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke to be the nation’s next Interior Secretary. The Interior Secretary is tasked with the conservation and management of federal lands, national parks, and natural resources in the United States.

Zinke was an early supporter of Trump. As a member of congress, he has supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund and keeping public lands under federal control, but is also a proponent of logging and energy development on those lands.

Lingjing Bao

Although there was hope among Wyomingites that Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis would be tapped by President elect Trump for Interior Secretary, it appears that position will go to Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers instead.

Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

The fight over the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota has brought to the fore tensions over whether tribes are adequately consulted about development that could affect them. Now, the Secretary of the Interior has issued an order addressing that.

Secretary Sally Jewell’s order directs agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service to collaborate more with tribes on resource management.

Stephanie Joyce

Senators from Wyoming, Colorado and North Dakota are among those asking the government to suspend its review of the federal coal program.

In January, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a comprehensive review of the federal coal program, and a moratorium on new coal leasing while that review is underway.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

New rules from the Department of the Interior aim to close what many have called a loophole in how federal coal resources are valued.

Most of the coal mined in Wyoming is owned by the federal government. Companies pay royalties for the right to mine that coal—in theory, 12.5 percent of the sale price.

Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons

A U.S. District Court judge in Wyoming has struck down a rule that would have governed fracking on federal lands.

Judge Scott Skavdahl concluded in his ruling that the Department of the Interior does not have the authority to regulate fracking and called the attempt to do so an “end-run” around the 2005 Energy Policy Act. That law explicitly exempted fracking from regulation by another arm of the executive branch—the Environmental Protection Agency.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

  

In President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, there was a line that caught the ear of people in the energy industry.

“I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet,” he said.

Brian Dierking

In response to a 15-year drought around much of the West, the U.S. Interior Department announced a new initiative called the Natural Resources Investment Center. The idea is to make it easier for the private sector to invest in water conservation projects like water transfers.

Water Resources Director Jimmy Hague with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership says such transfers allow water to be stored and moved to places where it’s needed most during dry spells.

Google Earth

The Secretary of the Interior called coal mine self-bonding “a big issue” in testimony to a Congressional committee Wednesday.

Coal companies typically have to put up money before they mine, to guarantee cleanup, but self-bonding gives companies a pass if they are deemed financially healthy.

Ladder Ranch

Wyoming Ranchers are among those who are pleased with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision not to list the Greater Sage Grouse as an endangered species.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in her announcement that one of the main reasons the bird wasn’t listed was the cooperation among individuals, industry, and government in conservation efforts.

Pat O’toole runs the Ladder Ranch in Savery, Wyoming. He says his ranch took several steps to help Sage Grouse – from putting land in conservation easements to creating more sage brush habitat.

Office of the Governor

People in Wyoming are passionate about wildlife. Just say the word “wolf” in mixed company and see what happens. And it’s the state’s long history of negotiating with the federal government over endangered species like the sage grouse and the grizzly that has prompted Governor Matt Mead this month to announce an initiative to reform the 42-year-old Endangered Species Act. I asked him, what made him decide now was the time for this.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

The Department of the Interior is proposing new regulations to reduce the impact of coal mining on streams. 

The rule, which has been in the works for six years, creates a buffer zone that restricts mining operations within 100 feet of streams and aquifers.

Joe Pizarchik, the director of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement says the rule also aims to restore streams.

Department of Interior Logo
U.S. Department of Interior

The federal government is going after a now-defunct Wyoming energy company for failing to document and pay royalties on the gas it had been extracting. 

Dan Boyce

The federal government has released its first set of rules addressing fracking on public lands, and they’re already getting pushback—in Congress and in court.

Melodie Edwards

Last week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was in Pinedale, taking part in a ceremony to sign up Wyoming ranchers to help protect sage grouse. These conservation agreements are called Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances or CCAA’s. They’re supposed to protect the birds on private lands, but as Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards reports, some wildlife advocates question whether the program really has the teeth to make a difference.

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, praised sage grouse conservation efforts in Wyoming during a tour of a ranch outside of Pinedale on Wednesday. The Bousman Ranch is one of nine in Wyoming that have agreed to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service on sage grouse conservation. During the tour Secretary Jewell learned about the ranch’s new strategies for protecting the grouse, such as converting windmill water tanks to solar to eliminate perches for the grouse’s predators like hawks and ravens.

Wallpaperslot.com

After considerable discussion, the Wyoming legislature approved a bill that would let the state and the federal government move forward with finalizing a deal to swap state owned land in Grand Teton National Park with the federal government.  Some senators expressed concern that the federal mineral land won't match the estimated $100 million value of the state's park land, but Jackson Senator Leland Christensen says the bill was changed to ensure the trade will be fair.

A high-voltage transmission line, known as Gateway West, has been approved by the Department of the Interior.  The power line will stretch 900 miles across Wyoming and into western Idaho and will transport renewable and conventionally-derived energy. 

The federal government will pay back mineral royalties that it withheld from states under the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration.

When sequestration went into effect earlier this year, the Department of the Interior started withholding 5 percent of states' share of the royalties, which are paid on resources like coal and oil extracted from federal lands. For Wyoming, that's amounted to more than $40 million.

On Monday, DOI announced that after a legal review, it's giving the money back.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced the approval of three major renewable energy projects on public lands. Jewell emphasized her commitment to President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and said one of her top priorities was to continue the work started by her predecessor, Ken Salazar, to expand the nation’s renewable energy portfolio.  

Barrasso votes no on Interior nominee

Mar 21, 2013

The Senate Energy Committee voted to approve the nomination of Sally Jewel to be the next Interior Secretary despite the objections of Wyoming U-S Senator John Barrasso. 

Barrasso was one of three members of the Senate Energy Committee to oppose the nomination. Barrasso told the committee that he received vague answers from Jewel concerning a variety of topics, but his largest criticism surrounds the fact that Jewel was Vice Chairman of the National Parks Conservation Association. 

DOI to investigate coal sales to overseas markets

Feb 11, 2013
EIA

The US Department of the Interior has assembled a task force and an action plan to investigate coal exports. The move comes after a letter from US Senators Wyden, of Oregon, and Murkowski, of Alaska, asked the agency to find out whether coal companies are properly reporting their sales. Increasingly, Wyoming’s coal producers are examining markets overseas to make up for a slump in domestic sales. Companies can fetch significantly higher prices for coal in Asian markets, and by selling through an affiliated intermediary, they could report the initial sale instead of the higher, final sale.