Interior Department Watchdog: Zinke Family Travel Violated Department Policies
The internal watchdog of the Department of the Interior (DOI) concluded Thursday that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated department travel policies by having his family members ride in government vehicles, The Hill reported.
The report, by the DOI's Office of Inspector General (OIG) also confirmed that Zinke and his wife Lolita cost taxpayers more than $25,000 when they travelled through Greece and Turkey with a Park Police security detail, though there were no policies against them doing so.
"Being exposed for abusing his power to rip-off the taxpayer while benefiting himself provides all the proof that should be needed to fire Ryan Zinke," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement following the report.
Zinke has been a controversial Interior Secretary because of his pro-oil and gas drilling stance and his dubious ethical behavior, including a conflict of interest with oil-giant Halliburton. There are three other investigations underway within the DOI into his actions in office, The Guardian reported.
The report found that Zinke had brought his wife with him on department boat travel, with a sign off from the DOI's solicitor general's office, but that on other occasions the Zinke family had reimbursed the DOI for family travel. It also found that Zinke's staff looked into making Lolita a volunteer, apparently in order to get around travel restrictions, though Zinke denies that was the reason. She was not eventually given volunteer status.
The report further found that Zinke took non-government guests on a National Park Service boat through the Channel Islands in California, including two who had hosted a fundraiser for Zinke's 2014 Congressional bid and one whose family had owned property in the islands. At the time, they were classified as "stakeholders," so weren't asked to reimburse the department, but ethics officials at the time were not aware of their ties to Zinke's campaign or the land they were viewing, The Hill reported.
Interior spokesperson Heather Swift said the report largely showed that Zinke had not done anything wrong.
"The Inspector General report proves what we have known all along: the secretary follows all relevant laws and regulations and that all of his travel was reviewed and approved by career ethics officials and solicitors prior to travel," she said.
But the Sierra Club cast doubt on that interpretation, saying that Zinke was merely shifting the blame.
"Even Scott Pruitt resigned before he could be fired, but Zinke doesn't even have that sense of decency," Brune said. Zinke is selling-out our public lands to corporate polluters, using his power to enrich himself, and ripping off the public by wasting their tax dollars. It's time Donald Trump fires Ryan Zinke, not give him a chance to engage in a Washington cover-up."
The report came the same day that Interior officials denied reports from Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that a Trump appointee from HUD, Suzanne Israel Tufts, was headed to DOI to lead the Inspector General's Office, The Hill reported.
Good government advocates had worried that a political appointee could interfere with the integrity of the investigations into Zinke currently underway.
"Why replace an acting Inspector General with a political appointee who has no government oversight experience?" Director of Public Policy with the Project on Government Oversight Elizabeth Hempowicz asked The Washington Post.
People across New England witnessed a dramatic celestial event Sunday night.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
On Friday, China set out an economic blueprint for the next five years, which was expected to substantiate the goal set out last fall by President Xi Jinping for the country to reach net-zero emissions before 2060 and hit peak emissions by 2030.
The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>