This week has seen leaders in the land seizure movement gaining traction at the Interior Department. Brian Steed, the former Chief of Staff to leading land seizure advocate Utah Congressman Chris Stewart, was appointed the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management. Meanwhile, Karen Budd-Falen, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s top pick to become the permanent head of BLM, brought her land seizure road show to Hamilton, Montana last Saturday.
Budd-Falen’s appearance led to a mass rally in support of public lands and opposed to her policies of land seizure. The crowd of over 100, as the Missoulian reported, was chanting #KeepitPublic and was politely, yet democratically announcing to Secretary Zinke that land seizure was not acceptable policy to Montanans.
A scathing profile on James Carson, the associate deputy secretary at Interior, revealed how he is shaping the BLM to overwhelmingly favor the oil and gas industry at the expense of Western public lands. According to The Nation, “He wrote the Federal Register notice announcing the department’s controversial review of 27 national monuments, and he has been granted virtual carte blanche to set policy as it relates to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”
Zinke has been in the news a lot this last week for some very concerning stories.
The Politico’s cartoonists married the growing influence of the oil and gas industry at Interior with Zinke’s zeal for changing the department’s flag.
The Washington Post exposed Zinke’s reckless and ethically questionable flying habits.
The Huffington Post detailed his affinity for using taxpayer money for interior design à la taxidermy.
Meanwhile, Sen. Dick Durbin is still not happy with Zinke’s national monuments review.
And neither are Native American activists who called out Zinke for his shallow attempt to wear moccasins while planning to decimate Bears Ears National Monument, a sacred site that took years of work to get recognized.
A former Interior employee is suing the department for refusing to release information concerning his own reassignment and that of several of his former colleagues.
Meanwhile, a Senate staffer offered inside information on the likely reduction of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. While information continues to leak out, the review process has been largely hidden from the public thus far.