Quantcast

Internal Watchdog: Zinke Didn’t Shrink Monument to Benefit Utah Lawmaker

Politics
A man holds up a sign in protest during a Utah visit by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. George Frey / Getty Images

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke did not draw the reduced boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah to benefit a political ally, The Associated Press reported Monday.


The Department of Interior's (DOI) Office of Inspector General (OIG) was investigating whether or not Zinke had altered the monument's boundaries specifically to benefit Utah Republican Congressman Mike Noel. Noel had petitioned for the monument to be shrunk and also owned property nearby, including 40 acres that fell inside the old monument boundaries and outside the new ones. The OIG, however, ruled there was no evidence that Zinke knew of Noel's interest in the area or redrew the boundaries with him in mind.

The OIG report "shows exactly what the secretary's office has known all along - that the monument boundaries were adjusted in accordance with all rules, regulations and laws," Zinke spokeswoman Heather Swift told The Associated Press.

Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger was skeptical that Zinke had done nothing wrong. He told The Associated Press that photos taken of Zinke and Noel together during a tour of the shrunken monument last year "seem to contradict" Zinke's innocence and urged the OIG to release the report "and let the public judge the merits of the findings."

Environmental groups like the Western Values Project have criticized Zinke for shrinking public lands like Grand Staircase to benefit fossil fuel and mining interests. Even if Grand Staircase was not redrawn with Noel in mind, DOI documents obtained by The New York Times in March did show that the Trump administration decided to reduce it and fellow Utah National Monument Bears Ears in order to increase access to deposits of oil, natural gas, uranium and coal.

Democratic Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona, who will chair the House Natural Resources Committee in January now that the Democrats have taken the House, said he would investigate the controversial decision to shrink the two monuments.

"Secretary Zinke should have known the people he was listening to while destroying our national monuments had disqualifying conflicts of interest," he told The Associated Press, while saying he accepts the reports findings.

Zinke is still facing other investigations into his conduct in office. One involves a real estate development owned by the son of the chairman of oil giant Halliburton, which the DOI regulates. Another concerns claims that Zinke met only with opponents of a Native American casino project in Connecticut and might have given false information to the tribes behind the project.

A third investigation looks whether Zinke reassigned a former DOI official for criticizing him, The Associated Press reported.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Coral restoration in Guam. U.S. Pacific Fleet / CC BY-NC 2.0

By Erica Cirino

Visit a coral reef off the coast of Miami or the Maldives and you may see fields of bleached white instead of a burst of colors.

Read More
Cracker Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana. Jacob W. Frank / NPS / Flickr

By Jason Bittel

High up in the mountains of Montana's Glacier National Park, there are two species of insect that only a fly fishermen or entomologist would probably recognize. Known as stoneflies, these aquatic bugs are similar to dragonflies and mayflies in that they spend part of their lives underwater before emerging onto the land, where they transform into winged adults less than a half inch long. However, unlike those other species, stoneflies do their thing only where cold, clean waters flow.

Read More
Sponsored
Augusta National / Getty Images

By Bob Curley

  • The new chicken sandwiches at McDonald's, Popeyes, and Chick-fil-A all contain the MSG flavor enhancement chemical.
  • Experts say MSG can enhance the so-called umami flavor of a food.
  • The ingredient is found in everything from Chinese food and pizza to prepackaged sandwiches and table sauces.

McDonald's wants to get in on the chicken sandwich war currently being waged between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A.

Read More
Protesters march during a "Friday for future" youth demonstration in a street of Davos on Jan. 24 on the sideline of the World Economic Forum annual meeting. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Youth climate activists marched through the streets of Davos, Switzerland Friday as the World Economic Forum wrapped up in a Fridays for Future demonstration underscoring their demand that the global elite act swiftly to tackle the climate emergency.

Read More
chuchart duangdaw / Moment / Getty Images

By Tim Radford

The year is less than four weeks old, but scientists already know that carbon dioxide emissions will continue to head upwards — as they have every year since measurements began leading to a continuation of the Earth's rising heat.

Read More