Friday, March 10, 2017

New Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, Rides to Work on Day One


Largely from an article posted by CNBC. Well, that's one way to make an entrance. On his first day as Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke rode a horse to work. While wearing a hat. With an escort from the United States Park Police. According to the Interior Department, his ride took place from the National Mall, where the National Park Service has stables, to the Interior Department's main building, located just off the Mall. He was then greeted by more than 350 federal employees. There, a veterans song was played on a hand drum by a Bureau of Indian Affairs employee, who is from Montana's Northern Cheyenne tribe.

Also part of the welcome, former acting Interior secretary Jack Haugrud, greeted Zinke on the steps. Zinke accepted an invitation from the Park Police to "stand should-to-shoulder with their officers on his first day at Interior, the eve of the Department's anniversary," Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said. Zinke, who previously served in the U.S. House and as a Montana state senator, was confirmed by the Senate as Interior secretary on Wednesday. As a fifth-generation Montanan, born in Bozeman and raised in Whitefish, who is also the first person from the state to serve on a presidential cabinet, perhaps it should be no surprise that he's starting off his time at Interior in such a manner.

Zinke was a US Navy SEAL from 1986 until 2008, and retired with the rank of Commander. As a Navy SEAL, Zinke earned two Bronze Stars for meritorious service in a combat zone, four Meritorious Service Medals, two Joint Service Commendation Medals, two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, and an Army Commendation Medal. He was the first Navy SEAL to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he served as a member on the Natural Resources Committee and the Armed Services Committee. As a member of Congress, Zinke supported the use of troops in the Middle East and has fought against the Affordable Care Act and environmental regulation.

President Trump nominated Zinke to be his Secretary of the Interior. Part of that selection has to be due to Zinke breaking with most Republicans on the issue of transfers of federal lands to the states, calling such proposals "extreme" and voting against them. In July 2016, Zinke withdrew as a delegate to the Republican nominating convention in protest of a plank in the party's draft platform which would require that "certain" public lands be transferred to state control. Zinke said that he endorses "better management of federal land" rather than transfer.

On Feb 28th, 2017, Trump issued an executive order instructing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers to rely on a 2006 opinion from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for guidance on how to determine which waterways fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the legislation under which the waters of the U.S. rule was issued. The Clean Water Act was intended to prohibit polluting discharges into the nation’s “navigable waters”, and says that the EPA can regulate “navigable waters” -- meaning waters that truly affect interstate commerce. But a few years ago, the EPA decided that “navigable waters” can mean nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmer's land, giving them statutory authority to punish farmers and ranchers from collecting rain water run off, repairing or improving dirt stock tanks, and the like. In fact, in one case in a Wyoming, a rancher was fined $37,000 a day by the EPA for digging a small watering hole for his cattle.

The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers lost several court cases over their zealous enforcement of their interpretation of the CWA regulation. Part of what kept the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers going back at farmers and ranchers was that there is no punishment or penalties for losing in court. Some of the EPA regulations over challenging the agencies decision relating to fining you for your stock tanks repairs or rain run off diversion was heavy application fees, long wait times all while your fines compounded.

I don't much like the idea of the Federal Government owning a high percentage of western lands but I am likely more in the Zinke camp as to not being a fan of releasing that land to the states,...just desire better management and much fairer treatment to the farmers and ranchers. I have faith in Secretary Zinke working with President Trump to curtail expansive Federal agency power and regulations and find a good balance between effective federal management and supporting freedom and property rights.



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