Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

Bighorn sheep
Magnus Kjaergaard via Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

Federal mineral leasing has increased under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. But it looks like he has a soft spot for bighorn sheep. Last week, the Department of Interior announced plans to renew a mineral withdrawal for the Whiskey Mountain Bighorn Sheep. A mineral withdrawal limits mining activity.

Department of the Interior

Too many decisions about the West get made in Washington, D.C. At least, that's what the Secretary of the Interior thinks. Ryan Zinke plans to move thousands of the department’s employees out west to manage water, public lands and energy from there. How might this seemingly dull, bureaucratic plan affect the West in interesting ways? Here's how people with a vested interest responded–starting in Wyoming.  


National Parks Service

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's call to increase peak-season entrance fees at 17 popular national parks appears to be an unpopular idea. The overwhelming majority of submitted comments were strongly opposed to it. Now, the National Park Service is rethinking the plan.

Craigh Okraska - Wild Horses

The citizen board for the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program will not meet this month as planned. The board gives advice to the BLM about how to manage the species on federal lands. The cancellation is frustrating for members who said the agency has given no response to its recommendations for two years.

Joe Riis

Wyoming and most of the Western landscape are part of big game animal migrations. Migratory herd of elk, deer, pronghorn, bison or bighorn sheep travel aggregated routes between their season ranges. Recently thanks to the research of scientists - including Arthur Middleton of the University of California, Berkeley, it has been found these corridors contain important stopover habitats where the animals rest and find food. So - if these routes are blocked it would stop these animals ability to recover after a winter season.

People watching Old Faithful erupt from geyser cone, Yellowstone National Park, 1948
R. Robinson / National Park Service Photo Gallery

Several illegal actions took place within national parks during the three-day government shutdown in January. In Zion National Park, a pregnant elk was poached, in Gettysburg National Military Park, a family brought in a metal detector and a drone — both of which are prohibited—and in Yellowstone, private snowmobilers went past the legal boundary to get close to the geyser Old Faithful.

Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

The Trump administration released its infrastructure plan and proposed budget for 2019. One conservation organization believes it will have brutal impacts on national parks.

President Trump and Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke’s, proposed budget requests a 16 percent cut from the Department of Interior’s 2018 budget. It also prioritizes energy and mineral development on public lands, cuts that Zinke calls unnecessary or duplicated programs, and has language detailing requirements for selling off public lands.

Bob Beck

Last year Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke infuriated Democrats when he announced intentions to cut about one third or about 4,000 people from his department. When Congress mostly rejected that plan in its funding bills, Zinke then focused more on a plan to reshape the department by moving key offices out West, to places like Denver. New Mexico Democratic Senator Tom Udall is dubious.

“It looks to me more like a dismantling rather than a reorganization, so I’m very worried about it.”

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

Wyoming U.S. Senator John Barrasso is advising the Department of Interior to focus on Wyoming as a prime example for sage grouse management. He wrote a letter to the department’s secretary, Ryan Zinke, writing that Wyoming is a leader in sage grouse management.

The Department of the Interior is outlining steps aimed at increasing energy production on federal lands. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says boosting production of resources like oil and gas creates jobs and enhances the nation’s energy security.

Western Values Project

A Montana-based environmental watchdog group is hoping to uncover e-mails from energy lobbyists and the Interior Department.

The Western Values Project is concerned coordination between the federal land management agency and representatives from the energy industry resulted in proposed changes to the sage grouse management plans.  

National Park Service

On Friday, National Park Service Director Mike Reynolds and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to better protect park service employees from harassment.

A Wyoming rig on federal land used for long directional drilling
BLM Wyoming / Bureau of Land Management

The Department of Interior, or DOI, plans to begin the process of changing the methane rule that’s currently in effect, and possibly end it permanently. The Methane and Waste Prevention Rule aims to reduce unnecessary gas and oil emissions by improving technology, reducing flaring, and spotting leaks early.  

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

The Interior Department is expected to take its first tangible step in making large changes to sage grouse management plans. Ninety-eight of these plans were established in 2015 across 10 western states. They came after more than a decade of collaboration in hopes of avoiding an endangered species listing for the chicken-like bird.

Earthjustice

The Obama-era “Fracking Rule" that would increase safety and transparency regulations for oil and gas companies is back on the table. A federal appeals court vacated a 2015 decision that stopped the fracking rule, citing government overreach and costliness.

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.

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.   

Ryan Britt

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced last week that national parks added about $35 billion to the economy in 2016. But some industry analysts are seeing signs that new travel bans and immigration policies may impact that growth in 2017. 

Tourism is the second largest industry in Wyoming with visitors spending $3.2 billion and supporting almost 32,000 jobs in 2016. And Zinke announced record breaking revenues of nearly $40 billion thanks to National Park visitation nationwide.

Stephanie Joyce

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he is embarking on a re-evaluation of the system for approving new coal leases. The question of whether the American public is getting fair market value on those leases led the Obama administration to place a moratorium on new leases. Zinke lifted that moratorium two weeks ago.

Stephanie Joyce

  

Coal country was celebrating this week when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lifted a coal moratorium signed into law by the Obama Administration 14 months ago. But now the question is whether coal companies will even decide to expand their production in states like Wyoming. With the price of natural gas so low, coal has been having a hard time competing. But if and when companies do expand, their first stop is the Bureau of Land Management to submit an application. Right now BLM has 11 applications, but all but one was submitted over ten years ago.

Wikimedia Commons

Two orders were signed Wednesday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, one of which overturns the Obama administration moratorium on all new coal leases on federal land. 

In a teleconference, Zinke said his agency has not yet decided whether to raise royalty rates, but a federal advisory committee will be re-established to study whether or not Americans get a fair return on natural resources from public land, and will include state, tribal, and other advocacy group members. 

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.