On late Friday afternoon, multiple media outlets reported that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had tapped controversial land seizure lawyer Karen Budd-Falen to be Deputy Solicitor for Wildlife and Parks, a position that gives legal counsel on issues related to the Interior agencies of the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. It was reported that Budd-Falen will begin in the Deputy Solicitor position on November 1st. Earlier today, in a statement, Interior said they were “excited to have” Budd-Falen “on our team.”
“Karen Budd-Falen is too extreme to be trusted with our national heritage,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of Western Values Project. “Someone who sides with armed militia groups and anti-public land zealots should not have a high-level job at the Department of Interior.”
Budd-Falen has previously identified with the goals of armed militia leader and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who refused to pay grazing fees and treated public lands as his private rangeland. She also supported Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory’s failed land grab bill, believing it “could stand a chance constitutionally.” Her opinion is in direct contradiction to a report supported by 11 Western Attorneys General that found that the “U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the Property Clause of the Constitution gives the U.S. government the right to own public lands….”
Although Secretary Zinke has repeatedly claimed he opposes the sale or transfer of federal land, previous Western Values Project analysis has found that a number of Secretary Zinke’s political appointees are sympathetic to land transfer.
Budd-Falen’s appointment comes at a critical time for both Secretary Ryan Zinke and Deputy David Bernhardt, who face multiple ethical issues and investigations. Zinke has been the subject of 14 known investigations with six still pending and Bernhardt was recently pulled from a speaking engagement by ethics officials due to undisclosed conflicts.
Before Friday’s announcement, Budd-Falen had been long-rumored to be the leading candidate for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) National Director position, which is still vacant under Secretary Zinke’s management. Budd-Falen was never nominated for BLM post, presumably because her anti-public lands and anti-federal land management positions raised questions about her ability to pass Senate confirmation. Instead, Brian Steed was named interim BLM director by Zinke.
View Karen Budd-Falen’s complete profile on the Department of Influence website.