Ryan Zinke is officially out as Secretary of the Interior, and while President Trump looks for a successor, a conservative policy expert says Zinke’s tenure was marked by some excellent policies and a major missed opportunity.
“Overall, I’d give him about a C-plus. It being a new year, let’s be generous – a B-minus,” said National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen.
Cohen says he’s greatly disappointed that Zinke to change the government mindset on federal lands.
“Where I think he fell short is (that) Zinke is wedded to the whole idea of government ownership of land. He opposes the transfer of these millions and millions and millions of acres of land, primarily in the west, either to the private sector or to the states in which those lands are located to dispose of and manage as they see fit,” said Cohen.
The government oversees more than 250 million acres of land, including 87 percent of Nevada and 63 percent of both Utah and Idaho.
“That puts enormous strains on local, rural communities because they have no tax base. They can’t spend public funds on schools, infrastructure, roads, bridges because those funds have to come from private property taxes and there’s practically no private property in those places,” said Cohen.
But Cohen is thrilled with the results of Zinke’s efforts to boost domestic energy production.
“In keeping with President Trump’s policy of making the United States the world’s greatest energy producer, he opened up more areas on public lands for oil, gas, and coal exploration.
“This is excellent because it now means that the United States is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. We have overtaken Russia in natural gas production and we have overtaken both Russia and Saudi Arabia in oil production,” said Cohen.
Cohen is also generally pleased with Zinke for reining in the size of some huge swaths of land in the western U.S. known as national monuments.
“What was originally designed to protect sacred and cultural sites for Native Americans. This simply became a political grab bag and an opportunity to go out and lock up more and more land. The Trump administration cut this back,”Cohen.
Listen to the full podcast to hear more of Cohen’s assessment of the Zinke record and hear his list of people he considers excellent choices to lead the Department of the Interior going forward.