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Bishop calls Interior pick’s opposition to land transfers enviro spin

First Published      Last Updated Jan 12 2017 09:14 pm


Public lands » Utah congressman believes Zinke will be good to work with on land transfers; his record says otherwise.

Rep. Rob Bishop warned against buying into hype from environmental groups that Rep. Ryan Zinke, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Interior Secretary, doesn't want to transfer federal land to state control — a cause that Utah lawmakers have been working on for years.

"There is a whole lot of spin on what he does and doesn't believe and it's coming from interest groups that want to spin his perspective," said Bishop, R-Utah.

But Zinke's opposition to having the federal government relinquish control of public lands to the states seems to be much more than spin.

Zinke resigned from his spot as a delegate to the Republican National Convention last summer after the national party added language to its platform calling for the federal government to transfer public lands to the state.




And he voted against a bill sponsored by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, that would have allowed states to buy up to 2 million acres of federal land to use for logging.

"I'm starting to wonder how many times I have to tell these guys in leadership I'm not going to allow Montana's public lands to be sold or given away," Zinke said at the time of the land-transfer vote. "The federal government needs to do a much better job of managing our resources, but the sale or transfer of our land is an extreme proposal, and I won't tolerate it."

Utah legislators have been spearheading an effort for years to unite Western states to sue the federal government, demanding that Congress turn over tens of millions of acres of lands around the West — more than 30 million acres in Utah alone — to state control.

"My experience with Ryan Zinke is, first of all, he's an American patriot, serving in our military, commander of SEAL Team 6, the guy has amazing patriotism, grit that is enviable and a commitment to his country that I think everyone should aspire to," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

From a policy perspective, Chaffetz said that Zinke enthusiastically supported a bill Chaffetz proposed that would dismantle the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service law-enforcement agencies and transfer the authority to local sheriffs. "He was on board before I even got to my second sentence," Chaffetz said.

BLM is an agency within the Interior Department; the Forest Service is under the Department of Agriculture.

"The idea of listening to locally elected people is something that will resonate to its core in Ryan Zinke," Chaffetz said.

Bishop, who is chairman of the House Resources Committee, which oversees the management of federal lands and where Zinke, of Montana, is a member, said Zinke understands the problems the West faces and wants to find solutions.

"He understands how difficult it has been to deal with the administration on his issues and our issues. He will work with us," Bishop said.

In addition to criticizing efforts to sell or transfer ownership of federal lands, Zinke was a defender of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which allows government to buy up parcels in critical areas. Bishop last year tried to block reauthorization of the fund and criticized House leaders when they included funding in a massive spending bill.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke

 

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