Interior department whistleblower: Ryan Zinke hollowed out the agency

(The Guardian, 12 Nov 2018) At first I kept an open mind about Trump’s interior secretary. But it soon became clear he put the oil, gas and mining industry above our mission.

Back in 2017, the staff at the interior department was not hoping for the best, we were hoping for the competent. A presidential transition can bring dramatic change to the leadership of a federal agency – particularly the agency that manages the conservation and use of one fifth of America’s land area and the seabed of our continental shelf.

Civil servants pledge to continue to serve the American people and the agency mission regardless of whether or not they agree with the political positioning of the president and his cabinet. So we watched the Ryan Zinke confirmation hearings carefully, listening for hints at his management style, his communications style, and his general understanding and respect for public lands and the mission of the agency. These were the qualities that mattered, not his ideology. We were hoping for competence.

What we heard in his hearing was a general respect for the notion of public lands, of science, and of the career staff who make the agency tick. There were some red flags for public land advocates and positive signs for industry, but for civil servants, he seemed competent and respectful enough. As so often happens in politics, however, looks can be deceiving.

If Zinke deserves credit for one thing during his tenure as secretary, it’s for his acting skills, and he was in effect handed a brand new “script” when he took office as interior secretary. This script was written by his oil, gas and mining associates and their mouthpiece organizations. It was a script for a provocative new tragedy in three acts, and his job was to do as the script says.

External link

The Guardian, 12 Nov 2018: Interior department whistleblower: Ryan Zinke hollowed out the agency