FORT PECK – Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met with ranchers and farmers affected by the Lodge Pole Complex Fires.
Zinke made his first stop on a 10-day tour at the Fort Peck Interpretive Center on Sunday.
He started with a few words about the U.S. and energy independence.
“We should be energy dominant,” Zinke said. “That’s a wise policy. It is better to produce energy in this country under reasonable regulations than watch it get produced overseas with no regulation.”
He told the people at the roundtable about the need to make changes at the Department of the Interior.
“This next year, we’re going to do a grand pivot,” Zinke said. “And the pivot is, the energy sector is fine. The grand pivot is reorganization.”
Zinke gave an example of why the federal government needs that reorganization and the difficulty in getting projects done.
“Imagine if you have a salmon and a trout in the same stream,” he said. “Upstream you have a dam. Downstream you have irrigation. And that stream passes by a forest service holding. It happens all the time. Whether you want to replace a bridge. Whether you want to put a dock or rebuild a riparian bank, you’re likely going to have multiple biological opinions produced independently by multiple agencies with different missions, in different regions. And you wonder why we can’t get things done.”
“We’re going to pivot and look at how to manage,” Zinke said. “Imagine an organization that hasn’t been reorganized in 150 years. Welcome to the Department of the Interior. And Washington has a tendency to be very arrogant, very condescending, very unwilling to accept that other people have an opinion that’s different and may in fact be right. ”
Zinke also says the Trump administration wants better management of public lands.
“I’m not an advocate for transferring or selling our public lands,” he said. “I am an advocate for managing it. And we are mismanaging our greatest treasures. It’s a structural issue.”
Zinke said Trump wants to hear from the citizens.
“The President has said to me directly that local voices matter,” Zinke said. “And the President was elected not by the coasts but by the country. We should listen and so I spend a lot of my time out in the field just listening to people.”
Fort Peck was Zinke’s only stop in Montana during this trip.
He will travel to Theodore Roosevelt National Park on Tuesday, the Williston Basin Petroleum 26th Annual Conference in Bismark on Wednesday, and the Black Hills Cemetery on Memorial Day.
Reporting by David Jay for MTN News