Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants the world to know when he’s in the building. And so now, at Zinke’s behest, the department’s Washington headquarters flies a secretarial flag when Zinke arrives for the day and lowers it when he leaves.
Flag raising, a Navy tradition, isn’t something that’s done for other Cabinet officials, and it isn’t Zinke’s only flamboyance. The former Navy SEAL ordered an upgrade of his office doors for an initial cost of $139,000, minted his own challenge coin, rode a horse to his first day of work, and displayed his knife collection in his office before security asked him to remove it.
But these stunts are mere distractions from Zinke’s real influence as interior secretary. Since he was sworn in on March 1, 2017, to lead the $12 billion agency in charge of federal lands and natural resources, he’s made unprecedented changes that could leave a lasting mark on America’s wilderness and its environment.
From his recent proposal to open almost all of America’s coast to offshore drilling to rolling back federal protections on national monuments, Zinke has taken extraordinary steps to make public lands more accessible to fossil fuel companies and other industries. Part of what he’s doing is selling mineral and energy rights to our public lands through leases — and potentially lowering royalties for industries in the process. In line with Trump’s interest in expanding mining on federal lands, Zinke has made critical mineral production a top priority.
“When Zinke was nominated, he told the American people that he was a conservationist in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt, and he was committed to stewarding our public lands, and he was concerned about issues like global warming,” says Jay Turner, an environmental historian at Wellesley College. “In practice, Zinke has aggressively worked to open up our public lands and natural resources to development by private interests and aggressively rolled back regulations meant to protect those resources and address issues like climate change.”
In conclusion, Hillary Clinton was the more neoliberal evil.