Zinke Wants To Tackle Backlog Of National Park Projects

Jun 27, 2018

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaking in the new Yellowstone County Commission Board Room. Several county offices, including the Commissioners, are moving across the street from the Yellowstone County Courthouse to the Stillwater Building, the old James F. Battiin Federal Courthouse building.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka/YPR

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the agency is turning its attention to investing in infrastructure, especially in the national parks. Zinke said during a brief stop in Billings, Interior has spent a lot of time on energy development, including renewables, and now it’s time to change focus.

“We’ve done a pivot in Interior. I think energy is fine,” he said. “These next few years we’re going to concentrate on infrastructure in the budget. It is the largest investment in the history of this country. And our parks and our wildlife refuges and Indian education.”

When it comes to national parks, Zinke said the system is nearly $12 billion behind in upkeep, yet visitation continues to grow.

“Our parks are being loved to death,” he said. “It’s time to reinvest.”

Zinke has said he wants to use revenue from energy produced on federal lands to pay for that infrastructure backlog.

A closeup of the sticker worn by several people who came to listen to Zinke.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka/YPR

While Zinke’s remarks came before invited guests, nearly two dozen members of the Northern Plains Resource Council came in and sat quietly in the back. They wore stickers that read “Fed Up With Federal Waste.”

“Well, if Zinke is standing for revenue for public lands, particularly the money that’s coming into the state of Montana from public lands, he needs to stand up to oil and gas companies that are leaking, flaring and venting methane from the BLM lands into the air,” explained Sue Beug of Red Lodge, a NPRC board member.

Sue Beug of Red Lodge, a NPRC board member, is one of about two dozen people who attended to listen to Zinke's remarks.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka/YPR

She said the companies should be required to capture that gas.