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Groups Challenge Interior's Zinke to Protect Public Lands

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke helped clean up a shooting range with Bureau of Land Management workers outside Las Vegas on Thursday. (U.S. Dept. of the Interior)
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke helped clean up a shooting range with Bureau of Land Management workers outside Las Vegas on Thursday. (U.S. Dept. of the Interior)
February 9, 2018

CARSON CITY, Nev. – On Thursday, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was in Nevada, helping clear trash from public land near Las Vegas that's been used for target practice.

Today, Zinke is in Salt Lake City to give a speech – where hunters, anglers and conservation groups are running full-page newspaper ads to send him a message.

Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands with the National Wildlife Federation, is troubled by recent Department of the Interior decisions, including undoing master leasing plans for development on public lands.

She says extraction can coexist with other activities, but it takes careful planning and input from local communities.

"And our concern is that we're losing those tools to do energy development right,” she says. “So, this is sportsmen and women saying, 'These are really important places to us, that we have to leave as is for future generations.'"

The ad includes the tag line, "Protect the land and you protect everything that comes with it."

In an effort to create jobs and boost the nation's energy dominance, the Interior Department has promised to remove what it sees as barriers to production, including shrinking national monuments such as Gold Butte.

Zinke did not meet with Gold Butte supporters, despite repeated requests.

Manning says prioritizing energy production upsets the Interior Department's traditional balanced approach to multiple uses of public lands. She adds western economies are doing pretty well and unemployment numbers are low.

"Can we do better? Yes,” says Manning. “But not at the expense of our hunting experiences – of clean water, of clean air, of how we live and play on these lands as westerners."

The ad features men and women hunting and fishing across the West, and makes the case that public lands "from sagebrush country to national monuments" provide clean water, sustain fish and wildlife, and support fishing and hunting.

Zinke has also targeted the multi-state Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan to open up additional areas for drilling.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV