A new HuffPost story has revealed that yet again, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has broken his promise to never sell or transfer public lands. According to the story, Zinke’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing to sell 70 acres of public land in San Bernardino County, California, to a limestone mining company after the company “dumped mineral waste materials on a portion of the federal land without permission,” in what is seen as “the Trump administration rewarding a company for bad behavior.” The land in question is part of the Granite Mountain Wildlife Linkage Area of Critical Environmental Concern, a designated protected area that protects bighorn sheep and other wildlife.
“Here we go again. Every day we see Zinke drift further and further from his promise to not sell or transfer America’s birthright – our public lands. When the Interior Secretary repeatedly states that he will not sell public lands, people should be able to expect him to keep his word,” said Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger. “Whether it’s special interests influencing Zinke’s proclaimed position or he’s just not aware of what’s happening in his own department, it’s clear the American public can’t trust him to keep public lands in public hands.”
The HuffPost article reports that Zinke’s BLM is proposing that OMYA, a multinational chemical and mining corporation whose website states that they are a ‘leading global producer of calcium carbonate and a worldwide distributor of specialty chemicals,’ be granted the direct sale of 70 acres of public land without competition under BLM’s preferred option. This comes after OMYA trespassed and illegally dumped mining waste on the land in 2005. The extent of contamination from the illegal mining waste dump is unclear.
Today’s news is only the latest in a troubling pattern of proposed land transfers taking place at the Department of the Interior. In August, Interior issued a controversial land disposal proposal in and around Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which received so much backlash that Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt had to walk the proposal back, declaring that the sell-off was inconsistent with department policy. Just last month, Interior proposed another non-competitive bid land sale to an electric utility company in Utah. Last month Zinke also hosted members of the pro-land transfer American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at the Interior Department, where he even snapped a photo with Ken Ivory, the notorious face of land transfer movement. He also appointed Ivory’s cousin, Ellis Ivory, to the National Park System Advisory Board. Ellis Ivory has donated $6,000 to the Where’s the Line, America? Foundation, his cousin’s anti-public lands group.
All this comes after Zinke has repeatedly claimed he is “absolutely against the sale or transfer of public lands.”