“And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenburg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away.”
– Paradise, by John Prine
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke first touted himself by saying, “I'm a Teddy Roosevelt guy!”
This is the guy that rode a horse to his first day of work sporting a cowboy hat and, for all intents and purposes, trying to look like the stud muffin hero riding in to save the conservation day. He had the brilliant idea of sending flags up at the Interior Department when he was in office and lowering them when he was out. Zinke also had commemorative coins made with his name on them to hand out to his staff and visitors.
I can't think of anyone else in this country that might have such an inflated ego and sense of self-importance – can you?
In the beginning, Zinke had a lot of support from lot of different folks that included conservationists, hunters and fishermen, National Congress of American Indians, recreation organizations and even the Theordore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and so on.
Turns out Zinke is not a “Roosevelt guy,” but more like a prostitute for the oil, gas and coal industries, and right about now they are the only ones left that think highly of him, that is, with the exception of some extreme right wing loyalists.
Only last week, President Trump proposed opening nearly all of the United States coastal waters to oil and gas drilling in an effort to increase domestic energy production. This brought protests from Democratic and Republican governors alike.
But lo and behold, Zinke announced earlier this week that Florida would be exempted from any drilling off its coasts after he had discussions with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who was opposed to drilling off his state's shores.
Zinke said he supported the governor's position that Florida is unique and “it's coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.” Surely, the fact that Mar-a-Lago sits on a Palm Beach barrier island in the Atlantic ocean had nothing to do with that decision.
We can only assume that California, Oregon, Washington state, South Carolina and the other coastal states to be affected by drilling are “not” unique, but that won't stop them from seeking equal consideration from Mr. Zinke. Question is, will he give them equal consideration?
Zinke had previously drafted the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019 to 2024, which would make over 90 percent of the outer continental shelf's total acreage available for leasing to drillers.
It's all part of President Trump's obsession with reversing anything Obama, who had ordered 94 percent of the outer shelf off limits to drilling.
Teddy Roosevelt, he says. Zinke, after using the taxpayers dime to review national monuments, removed over 2 million acres of protected area from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, making them available to drilling mining and, basically, out and out looting. It was Teddy Roosevelt who signed the Antiquities Act into law, in essence, protecting 230 million acres of public lands that included 18 national monuments.
Zinke has reassigned dozens of senior officials in the Interior Department, probably ones that were actually interested in conservation of public lands. He proposes doubling the entrance fees to national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite, which would make it virtually impossible for some families to afford to visit.
Zinke tried to hold a lease sale in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve to members of the oil and gas industry. However, it turned out to be a flop simply because the demand is not there right now.
The oil and gas, and coal industries are certainly applauding Mr. Stud Muffin, but those who are really concerned about conservation of public lands and American heritage can safely assume he is no Teddy Roosevelt.