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

By Jared Kaufman

Eating a better diet has been linked with lower levels of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. But unfortunately 821 million people — about 1 in 9 worldwide — face hunger, and roughly 2 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese, according to the U.N. World Health Organization. In addition, food insecurity is associated with even higher health care costs in the U.S., particularly among older people. To help direct worldwide focus toward solving these issues, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals call for the elimination of hunger, food insecurity and undernutrition by 2030.

Read More Show Less
Healthline

Made from the freshly sprouted leaves of Triticum aestivum, wheatgrass is known for its nutrient-dense and powerful antioxidant properties.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less

mevans / E+ / Getty Images

The federal agency that manages the Great Barrier Reef issued an unprecedented statement that broke ranks with Australia's conservative government and called for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Guardian.

Read More Show Less

A powerful earthquake struck near Athens, Greece and shook the capital city for 15 seconds on Friday, causing people to run into the streets to escape the threat of falling buildings, NBC News reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
U.S. government scientists concluded in a new report that last month was the hottest June on record. Angelo Juan Ramos / Flickr

By Jessica Corbett

As meteorologists warned Thursday that temperatures above 100°F are expected to impact two-thirds of the country this weekend, U.S. government scientists revealed that last month was the hottest June ever recorded — bolstering calls for radical global action on the climate emergency.

Read More Show Less
Rod Waddington / CC BY-SA 2.0

By John R. Platt

For years now conservationists have warned that many of Madagascar's iconic lemur species face the risk of extinction due to rampant deforestation, the illegal pet trade and the emerging market for the primates' meat.

Yes, people eat lemurs, and the reasons they do aren't exactly what we might expect.

Read More Show Less
Pixnio

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Many types of flour are commonly available on the shelves of your local supermarket.

Read More Show Less