Department of the Interior

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A failure in oversight by the Bureau of Indian Affairs permitted the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to misspend $6.2 million in federal funds between 2013 and 2015. 

The Department of the Interior is continuing its push to move some agency headquarters out West by asking Congress to fund the initiative.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is asking Congress for $10.5 million in the next fiscal year for the relocation efforts. The department says it plans to choose a new western location for the Bureau of Land Management headquarters later this year. It has also signaled that it may move the U.S. Geological Survey headquarters to the Denver area.

National Park Service funding in 2020 plan
U.S. Department of the Interior

The Interior Department's Acting Secretary David Bernhardt released his first budget request to Congress. The 2020 financial plan promotes an "all of the above" domestic energy strategy. For Interior, that would mean adding hundreds of millions of dollars into streamlining oil and gas drilling and coal mining on public lands. It would also support increased logging within national parks.

As the partial government shutdown stretches toward a third week, both the public and public employees alike are feeling the pain. But there’s another casualty: public information.

Despite the government shutdown, there's been a handover at the U.S. Department of the Interior. Former Secretary Ryan Zinke is out, deputy secretary David Bernhardt is in, with a continuance of the Trump Administration policy of energy dominance.

KUER's Diane Maggipinto spoke with Nate Hegyi of KUER's Mountain West News Bureau to sort it out, starting with Zinke's wins and losses.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a grant program Monday that aims to improve the habitat and migration corridors of big game animals in the West. However, some groups are concerned that it’s not enough to mitigate potential harm caused by oil and gas development. The Department of the Interior has leased more than a million acres to oil and gas since President Trump took office.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has released more details about his plan to reorganize the Department of Interior. The plan could have big impacts for public lands in the west.

 


Some Steamboat Springs, Colorado residents are welcoming the Interior Department Secretary with a protest Friday evening.  Ryan Zinke is the keynote speaker at the Steamboat Institute’s annual ‘Freedom Conference,’ a private event.

The Interior Department is once again facing change in agency leadership. The acting head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stepped down. 

NPS / Jacob W. Frank

Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk held a virtual press conference on Thursday addressing his retirement on September 29, 2018.

The head of Yellowstone National Park is leaving his post next month after the Trump administration forced him to either take a transfer to D.C. or retire early.

When our Mountain West News Bureau first broke that news in June, Superintendent Dan Wenk said he felt “abused” by the U.S. Interior Department.

But during a press conference Thursday, he mellowed his tone.

Bighorn sheep
Magnus Kjaergaard via Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

Federal mineral leasing has increased under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. But it looks like he has a soft spot for bighorn sheep. Last week, the Department of Interior announced plans to renew a mineral withdrawal for the Whiskey Mountain Bighorn Sheep. A mineral withdrawal limits mining activity.

National parks tourism pumped nearly $36 billion into the U.S. economy last year, and communities just outside the parks benefited the most. That’s where more than 330 million visitors dropped more than $18-billion-dollars and supported 255 thousand jobs.

Department of the Interior

Too many decisions about the West get made in Washington, D.C. At least, that's what the Secretary of the Interior thinks. Ryan Zinke plans to move thousands of the department’s employees out west to manage water, public lands and energy from there. How might this seemingly dull, bureaucratic plan affect the West in interesting ways? Here's how people with a vested interest responded–starting in Wyoming.  


National Parks Service

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's call to increase peak-season entrance fees at 17 popular national parks appears to be an unpopular idea. The overwhelming majority of submitted comments were strongly opposed to it. Now, the National Park Service is rethinking the plan.

Craigh Okraska - Wild Horses

The citizen board for the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program will not meet this month as planned. The board gives advice to the BLM about how to manage the species on federal lands. The cancellation is frustrating for members who said the agency has given no response to its recommendations for two years.

Oil and gas drilling on Jay Butler's property in Converse County
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

A major oil and gas project has taken a step forward with the end of its public comment period last week. The 5,000 well project covers over 1.5 million acres in Converse County, and received 110 comments following the release of its draft environmental impact statement, or EIS. 

Joe Riis

Wyoming and most of the Western landscape are part of big game animal migrations. Migratory herd of elk, deer, pronghorn, bison or bighorn sheep travel aggregated routes between their season ranges. Recently thanks to the research of scientists - including Arthur Middleton of the University of California, Berkeley, it has been found these corridors contain important stopover habitats where the animals rest and find food. So - if these routes are blocked it would stop these animals ability to recover after a winter season.

The Department of the Interior is outlining steps aimed at increasing energy production on federal lands. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says boosting production of resources like oil and gas creates jobs and enhances the nation’s energy security.

Jackson Hole’s annual SHIFT Festival kicked off this week with Native American leaders defending Bears Ears National Monument. Each year, SHIFT gathers outdoor enthusiasts from around the nation. This year, Native American leaders took center stage.

Western Values Project

A Montana-based environmental watchdog group is hoping to uncover e-mails from energy lobbyists and the Interior Department.

The Western Values Project is concerned coordination between the federal land management agency and representatives from the energy industry resulted in proposed changes to the sage grouse management plans.  

Cooper McKim

  

Energy companies, environmentalists, ranchers and government officials are getting back together at meetings across the West this fall to talk about the fate of a chicken-like bird.

 

Many of these so-called stakeholders have sat at this table before. The well-being of the Greater Sage Grouse was the focus of a hard-fought compromise among 11 states, finalized a few years ago.

 

Sage Grouse Implementation Team meeting, 09/15/17
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

The sage grouse implementation team met for the first time since the Department of Interior announced recommendations to a collaborative state and federal Obama era plan. But early last month, DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended changes to the plan that would loosen restrictions on energy development while giving states more flexibility in implementing their own sage grouse protection plans.

A greater sage-grouse male struts for a female at a lek (dancing or mating ground) near Bridgeport, CA
Jeannie Stafford / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is concerned about the Interior Department’s recommendations to the sage grouse conservation plans. The federal agency released a report this week outlining recommendations to the 2015 plan, including giving states more leniency in enforcing the rules and changing the focus from habitat management to population goals.

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Sacramento, US

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to make fundamental changes to a sage grouse conservation plan adopted under the Obama administration. They could make it easier for ranchers and energy companies to move into sagebrush habitat that’s now off limits. 

The sign at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Wikimedia Commons: Guerillero

The Department of Interior will contribute $53 million to the National Park Service this year with funds going to 42 parks including Grand Teton and Yellowstone. The goal of the incoming money will be to address high priority maintenance projects. For Yellowstone, that means improving trails, retaining walls, and overlooks for the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Stephanie Joyce

Newly minted Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke just took a massive step towards streamlining the permitting process for oil and gas drilling on federal lands. Wyoming lawmakers love the move, but Democrats fear it’s a dangerous first step down a slippery slope.   

United States Department of the Interior

The Department of Interior is facing budget cuts of $1.6 billion. A summary of the proposed budget shows reductions in wildlife management while boosting funds for oil and gas development. Conservationists say this will have an effect here in Wyoming.

The proposed budget would reduce funding for endangered species, fisheries and wildlife management including almost $30 million less for sage grouse protection. It would also increase funds for programs ensuring oil and gas management while reducing permitting fees.

Wikimedia Commons - Paul Lenz

In his last days in office, President Obama adopted a ban on lead ammunition for hunting to protect scavengers from lead poisoning. Last week, as one of his first acts in office, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lifted that ban.

Numerous scientific studies show that eagles, ravens, condors and other scavengers that feed on carcasses killed with lead bullets have a much higher likelihood of lead poisoning. Natural Science curator Charles Preston at the Draper Museum in Cody said that can cause problems with bird reproduction and can even kill them.

Wikimedia Commons

President Elect Donald Trump has reportedly asked Montana U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke to be the nation’s next Interior Secretary. The Interior Secretary is tasked with the conservation and management of federal lands, national parks, and natural resources in the United States.

Zinke was an early supporter of Trump. As a member of congress, he has supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund and keeping public lands under federal control, but is also a proponent of logging and energy development on those lands.

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