Rob Bishop Praises Ryan Zinke: Says Utah's Monuments Should Have Local Control
In this second story covering US Congressman Rob Bishop’s tenure in the House of Representatives, KPCW talks to him about the direction the Department of the Interior has taken over the past two years. Carolyn Murray talked with the congressman recently about his support of the interim Interior Secretary just named to replace Ryan Zinke.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke resigned in December amid accusations of unethical behavior while in office, including using taxpayer money for family travel. He is also under investigation with the Department of Justice concerning a conflict of interest while in office over a Montana land deal in his home town of White Fish. Despite the ethics accusations, Congressman Bishop gave high praise for his accomplishments while in the cabinet office the past two years.
He issued a statement saying, “In the world of Washington politics, Zinke was an anomaly. He had a vision of a better future.”
"The reorganization is part of the stuff that I was talking about. The efforts to move some of those departments out west where the people and the land is, especially BLM, maybe Fish and Wildlife. That was part of the stuff he was dealing with. As the effort to try and make sure there’s public access for everyone on public lands. Both recreational, environmental as well as economic. He really made great strides in doing that. His willingness to go and talk to County Commissioners.”
Last year, during the initial public comment period, Zinke was accused of neglecting the input of Tribal Leaders after the President issued a proclamation modifying the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument. Bishop disputes that claim saying Tribal concerns were considered by Zinke. Bishop said road access should be preserved in the monuments and that public access to public lands is something he and Zinke both believe in.
It was traditional activities that those people who abut that area, would go into that area and use it for traditional…one of the traditional activities was for firewood gathering, for herbs gathering. And, they would go in by vehicles. There is not a land manager alive in a national monument that would allow vehicle access but that is exactly what you should do at Bears Ears.
Bishop said access to both the monument lands and the surrounding federal land is important.
“Everything else that used to be part of the monument that no longer is, is still run by the federal government. So, providing access to that is also equally important. It’s one of those bizarre things that especially around Bears Ears there is almost no ability to have the extraction industry going in there and making it economically feasible.”
Bishop said Zinke started to reorganize the department and thinks it should continue with whomever is chosen to replace Zinke. He has high praise for the interim Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, and said Bernhardt would be the best choice to take over the Cabinet position.
“If he were to nominate David Bernhardt, that would be a wise move on the part of the president because Mr. Bernhardt understands that agency probably as well as any human being alive. And, he is a very good dedicated civil servant that sees things clearly and understands how to get things accomplished.”
Bernhardt has a background of lobbying for extractive industries, as well as serving with government administration. He is a partner and shareholder with a Colorado law and lobbying firm. In November of 2016, he delisted himself as a lobbyist.
In a related action, on Thursday, Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney proposed a bill blocking presidents from using the Antiquities Act in Utah to create or expand national monuments.