Email correspondence (available here and here) obtained by the Western Values Project (WVP) reveals that behind the scenes Utah legislative leaders have been bashing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, opposing the use of executive orders and letting special interests write legislation.
It seems that Secretary Zinke can’t make anyone happy. On his recent Western tour, Secretary Zinke was greeted by protesters and editorials opposing his efforts to reduce or eliminate national monuments. But even local Republican legislative leaders were bashing the secretary behind the scenes. Utah State Senator Ken Ivory, former chair of the anti-public lands group American Lands Council, criticized Zinke when President Trump selected him to run Interior, saying:
“He [Zinke] is against local control of lands and waffles persistently. Very bad pick!”
“I am opposed to executive orders of any kind.”
The emails also show that even legislators who want to rescind Bears Ears oppose efforts to do so using an executive order. Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, a sponsor of a resolution calling on President Trump to rescind Bears Ears, had this to say about the use of executive orders:
“I am opposed to executive orders of any kind. In recent years, the Presidents of the United States have taken upon themselves a power that, in my opinion, is far beyond their constitutional jurisdiction.”
Last year, Senate President Niederhauser called on then-candidate Donald Trump to step down and revoked his endorsement after the release of the Access Hollywood tapes.
Handing the keys over to special interests
As they clearly don’t have much faith in the Trump/Zinke administration, Utah Republicans turned to special interests to drive the train. The emails (here and here) reveal that special interests don’t just have a seat at the table in the Utah legislature, they’re actually writing the bills.
The resolution sponsored by Niederhauser, that calls on President Trump to rescind Bears Ears National Monument, was actually written by the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think-tank bankrolled by the Koch brothers.
“These emails reveal that leading Bears Ears opponents are trashing the Trump/Zinke agenda behind closed doors, while they publicly ask the administration to do their bidding. The Trump administration is taking on an unprecedented, unpopular review of Bears Ears and other monuments with no real support from Western communities. With little support on the left or the right, the results of this monuments ‘review’ are clear,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project.