Hunters Sour On Trump's Interior Secretary Over Public Lands Review Though Ryan Zinke promised to bring a balanced vision to managing public lands, hunters and other sportsmen now feel that he's not listening to their concerns.
NPR logo

Hunters Sour On Trump's Interior Secretary Over Public Lands Review

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/547687095/548985342" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Hunters Sour On Trump's Interior Secretary Over Public Lands Review

Hunters Sour On Trump's Interior Secretary Over Public Lands Review

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/547687095/548985342" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Hunters, anglers and other sportsmen had high expectations when Ryan Zinke was nominated to be President Trump's interior secretary. That's because Zinke pledged to bring a Teddy Roosevelt-style vision of conserving access to U.S. public lands for hunting and other recreation. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports that some recent developments are causing their support to erode.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Secretary Zinke crisscrossed the West this summer, touring large tracts of protected public land like the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon. It was designated by President Clinton and expanded by President Obama. Then Zinke and the Trump administration considered shrinking it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RYAN ZINKE: And I'm making sure that people have a voice. That means the ranchers today. What are their concerns? What are the timber guys' - what are their concerns?

SIEGLER: Zinke says this a lot when he's talking about his review of the size of national monuments and the scope of their restrictions. But he also frequently gives reassurances to the conservation community.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ZINKE: We want to make sure that we look out, as Roosevelt did a hundred years ago - look out in the future to make sure we have in place right policies so our experience in our public lands remains.

SIEGLER: Now, interior secretaries almost always get criticized from one side or the other or sometimes all sides because they're in charge of so much land. But the politics for Zinke here are especially tricky. A lot of President Trump's base views any restrictions on land use, like national monuments, as federal overreach.

But then you've got the president's son, Donald Trump Jr. He's an avid big-game hunter who said often on the campaign trail that wild areas should be protected to preserve access for sportsmen. Trump Jr. is closely aligned with several sportsmen's lobbying groups who pushed for Zinke to become interior secretary.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What happened to Ryan Zinke?

SIEGLER: Now one of them is running this ad targeting the secretary.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Stand up...

JOHN SULLIVAN: Stand up.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: ...For all our public lands.

SULLIVAN: Just like Theodore Roosevelt would.

He definitely likes to espouse the ideals of Teddy Roosevelt. And he's not living up to them now.

SIEGLER: This is John Sullivan of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, who's in that ad. A 10-minute drive from his group's Montana headquarters, and we're standing on federal public land next to a trout stream. Deep-pocketed sportsmen's groups have become more of a political force lately, mobilizing, sometimes literally, in camo, lobbying to beat back high-profile efforts to restrict access to public lands. John Sullivan says as a congressman, Zinke was a champion for hunter access even if it meant bucking his own party.

SULLIVAN: He told us he'd do the same thing before his promotion, and he's kind of reversed that. I feel like he's not listening to us. Threatening those public lands threatens who I am.

SIEGLER: A lot of people's identity in the West is intricately tied to public lands. Secretary Zinke often acknowledges this. And in a statement, his spokesperson called the sportsmen ad campaigns misleading. And some of the secretary's backers think the controversy is overblown.

PAUL PHILLIPS: What are we afraid of? That's what I would ask to begin with.

SIEGLER: Paul Phillips is on the board of the Boone and Crockett Club, which was founded by Teddy Roosevelt in 1887 and, by executive order of the Obama administration, protected more than 4 million acres of new land as national monuments in the West alone. And Phillips points out that some don't have management plans that guarantee hunting access.

PHILLIPS: So having Secretary Zinke step in and look at this when there's been such a dramatic increase in such a short period of time really makes sense to us.

SIEGLER: The stakes here are high. With scores of acres of protected public lands in question, sportsmen and other conservation groups are watching the secretary closely. Some groups are already threatening lawsuits if the administration moves ahead with shrinking some of the national monuments. Kirk Siegler, NPR News.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.