Some great reporting from the Salt Lake Tribune yesterday shows that the oil and gas company executives Ryan Zinke met with when he conducted his “listening tour” of the Bears Ears Monument are already planning to drill the moment Zinke lifts monument status on some portion of the area. From the Tribune:
But a review of Bureau of Land Management records indicates that industry does hope to tap hydrocarbon deposits under parts of the Bears Ears region that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may soon recommend removing from the monument.
If President Donald Trump’s administration shrinks the 1.3-million-acre monument, some of these sought-after parcels could be leased for drilling, particularly given the new administration’s pledge to promote an “America first” energy policy and lower hurdles to extraction on public lands.
“Opening this area for more oil and gas drilling and fracking is going to harm the reasons this monument was established,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director for the Arizona-based group. “This is a clear and present danger. It’s not theoretical and the only thing staying in the way is monument status.”
When Secretary Zinke visited the area, he made little time for the Native people or their governments other than to yell at a woman who was trying to get him to answer a question. He held no public meetings and spent most of his time listening to people who oppose the monument status. The Washington Post said that during his tenure at Interior Zinke has been incredibly accommodating to industry executives but not the tribes and communities that protect our public lands.
An opinion piece by Matthew Chappel this week shows just how little respect and how much condescension Zinke and Republicans have for the Native people near Bears Ears:
Zinke smiled as a monument opponent gave Zinke a cowboy hat that read “Make San Juan County Great Again.” The county commissioner who provided Zinke’s mount was on the record stating, “Nobody really had settled” in the Bear’s Ears before his white forebears, ignoring the area’s archaeology dating back 13,000 years.
Senator Hatch announced that the tribes were “manipulated” to support the monument and, “The Indians, they don’t fully understand that a lot of the things that they currently take for granted on those lands, they won’t be able to do if it’s made clearly into a monument or a wilderness.” This condescending, inaccurate, zealous response permeated the atmosphere of the visit.
The Teddy Roosevelt Republican at Interior sure doesn’t seem interested protecting our irreplaceable public lands and monument sites. Montanans had better place close attention to what Zinke is up to in Utah because it won’t end there.