Secretary Zinke, you’re no Teddy Roosevelt

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Remarkably, it’s only been one year since Ryan Zinke was confirmed as the new secretary of the Interior and rode a horse to his first day on the job, talking big about being the next Teddy Roosevelt. 

The amount of damage he’s inflicted to Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy and our nation’s public lands in a single year is stunning in its scope. He may as well just have driven a crane with wrecking ball down the National Mall that first day to the Department of the Interior building and started the job early. But then his intentions would have been too obvious. 

{mosads}Since founding Black Diamond in the late 1980s, I’ve seen many secretaries of the Interior and many administrations come and go. But nothing can compare to what I’ve seen over the last year.


As a company that generates approximately $150 million in annual sales and employs several hundred people, Black Diamond is reliant on protected public lands for its business and way of life. We are not the only ones. Outdoor recreation generates $887 billion annually and creates 7.6 million jobs. And a majority of those jobs depend on funding, management, and access to public lands. Zinke has taken a hatchet to all of that. 

Acting on Zinke’s recommendation, Trump removed protections for more than 2 million acres of public land in the West. His enormous reductions in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments were the single largest elimination of protected areas in the history of our country. 

It was a slap in the face of Native Americans as it put many sacred sites at risk. And it is a slap in the face to the local communities that rely on tourism to those areas for their livelihoods. My Utah-based business is centered on the red rocks and slot canyons that are now losing protections. 

Zinke has also overseen a wholesale giveaway of our public lands to the oil and gas industry. In a sweeping move earlier this year, he scrapped a series of reforms put in place in 2010 to the oil and gas leasing program that were meant to increase public involvement and advance planning in regards to drilling. Now his department is currently overseeing the dismantling of the Bureau of Land Management Methane Waste and Prevention Rule, costing taxpayers enormous sums of money and putting the regional air quality at risk for gateway communities.

And finally, there’s the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — one of the largest intact wilderness areas left on the planet. It’s a place that many of us will never have the great fortune to travel to but the sensitive wildlife and ecological importance of the region is renowned the world over and vital for Alaska Natives. However, in December the BLM offered the largest lease sale in history in the region, putting more than 10 million acres on the chopping block.

We are just one year in but Zinke and the Trump administration have made clear where their priorities lie. They do not lie with local communities, or Native Americans, or the booming and sustainable outdoor recreation and tourism industry. Most importantly they do not lie with the majority of Americans who have made it overwhelmingly clear that they love and support their protected public lands. 

One can only imagine what year No. 2 holds.

Peter Metcalf is the founder and former CEO of Black Diamond equipment. He is vice chairman of the Outdoor industry’s Conservation Alliance, and a board member of the Outdoor Alliance, American Alpine Club, and the Conservation Lands Foundation. Metcalf is the director of Salt Lake City branch of Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Zions Bank.

Tags Environment national monuments Peter Metcalf public lands Ryan Zinke Teddy Roosevelt

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