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Rep. Ryan Zinke Confuses Two Agencies He Once Led

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) has a go-to talking point for condemning bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.: “You can’t manage the Yellowstone River if you don’t know where it is.” 

But despite previously overseeing America’s national parks, including Yellowstone, which is named after the mighty river that cuts north through the park, Zinke seems to have forgotten which agency manages the nation’s crown jewels.

In a letter this month to top Biden administration officials, Zinke and fellow Montana Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale confused the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, two agencies within the Interior Department. Zinke served as secretary of the Interior Department under former President Donald Trump for nearly two years, until he resigned under a cloud of scandal in early 2019.

“From National Parks to natural resources, the BLM’s management of land in Montana is of great concern to the people of our state,” Zinke and Rosendale wrote. 

The National Park Service, not BLM, manages America’s national parks. BLM is the nation’s largest land manager, overseeing more than 245 million acres of public land across the West, as well as 700 million subsurface mineral acres. BLM also manages or co-manages more than two dozen national monuments, a separate designation from a national park.

But once BLM-managed lands become part of a national park boundary, those lands fall under NPS’s purview. 

Zinke and Rosendale did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment Thursday. NPS and BLM also did not respond.

Then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wore a National Park Service ranger hat backwards while promoting the NPS Junior Ranger program in 2018.
Then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wore a National Park Service ranger hat backwards while promoting the NPS Junior Ranger program in 2018.

Then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wore a National Park Service ranger hat backwards while promoting the NPS Junior Ranger program in 2018.

The letter, obtained by HuffPost, is addressed to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning and concerns a new BLM proposal aimed at placing conservation “on equal footing with other uses,” including energy development, timber harvest and grazing. Zinke and Rosendale told the Biden administration officials they are “disappointed” that the agency isn’t planning to hold a public forum in Montana to give their constituents an opportunity to learn and voice concerns about the proposed rule.

While at the helm of Interior, Zinke loyally advanced the Trump administration’s pro-extraction, anti-conservation agenda and spearheaded the largest rollback of federal land protections in U.S. history. He also proposed drastically hiking entrance fees at 17 of America’s most popular national parks as the administration attempted to slash the National Park Service’s budget. Nearly every member of the National Park Service Advisory Board, which advises the secretary on issues related to the national park system, resigned in protest of Zinke’s actions. 

Now back in Congress, Zinke, who made a small fortune working for oil and other extractive industries after stepping down from Interior, is fighting what he calls the Biden administration’s “radical” climate and environmental agenda, including BLM’s new public lands proposal.

In a fiery speech on the House floor shortly after his return to Congress, Zinke ranted that a “covert” left-wing “deep state” is working to “destroy the American West.” 

“In many cases, they want to wipe out the American cowboy completely, remove public access to our lands and turn Montana into a national park,” he said.

A national park managed by the BLM, apparently.