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Zinke Argues for Balance Between Nat'l Monuments & Economic Development

by Countable | 6.19.17

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose agency is responsible for management of one-fifth of U.S. territoy, believes that resources on federal lands can and should be leveraged to make the U.S. a dominant force in global energy markets.

Zinke was in New England last week, continuing his tour of national monuments. In an interview Friday in Boston with Reuters he argued for opening up more federal lands for oil and mining development in pursuit of energy dominance:

"Energy dominance gives us the ability to supply our allies with energy, as well as to leverage our aggressors, or in some cases our enemies, like Iran."

The tour and review of national monuments that Zinke is in the midst of was mandated by an executive order issued in late April. The order called for a review of all national monument designations over 100,000 acres made since 1990. Last week Zinke submitted the first report in response to the order, calling for a reduction in the size of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

In Boston, Zinke was meeting with officials and scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New England Aquarium, followed by a roundtable discussion with commercial fishermen. The focus was the 4,913 square mile Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of Massachusetts – which is roughly three times the size of Montana’s Glacier National Park. While in New England Zinke also met with officials to solicit opinions on Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine.

Zinke stated that he is likely to take the same tack with these national monuments as he did with Bears Ears, arguing for shrinking the monuments’ acreage. That would also include arranging for less stringent federal management and protection for the surrounding areas.

Reuters noted that during his meetings with officials Zinke argued "the Interior Department now makes around $15.5 billion per year less in revenue from offshore drilling than it did in 2008 due to Obama-era restrictions."

Zinke told Reuters the administration believes environmental concerns must be balanced against impacts on industry and jobs. He hopes to use the revenue gained from resource development in part to fund much-needed improvements to America’s national parks:

"there are legitimate scientific endeavors and research that are recognized and important (around the site), but there are also recognized livelihoods, fishing jobs that are also important... If you don’t have an economy you can’t afford to put in the environmental protections you need."

Should the federal government open up lands previously protected under national monument designation for energy development, like drilling and mining? Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Whit Welles via Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

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