Zinke’s Interior takes shape; Big Rec’s big move; solar shift

HCN.org news in brief.


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke arrived for his first day of work at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., riding Tonto, a 17-year-old Irish sport horse, and then proceeded to sign two orders that showed his support for the sportsmen community.
Interior Department


The new secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke, has his work cut out for him. So far, his priorities for Interior have been vague but unsurprising: rebuilding trust between the public and the department, increasing public-lands access for sportsmen, and improving outdated infrastructure at national parks. Zinke has been mum on how he will combat climate change as the head manager of a fifth of the nation’s landmass, in contrast to his two predecessors, who created climate research centers and pushed renewable energy. The secretary has also said he will conduct a “bold” restructuring of the agency, though details on that are still slim. Perhaps the biggest questions are how he will balance a mining- and drilling-friendly agenda with habitat conservation and access to public lands, as well as how he will achieve his priorities if President Donald Trump follows through with proposals for major budget cuts.
-Tay Wiles


In Utah, despite widespread use of public land for recreation, top elected officials want to whittle down federal land protections. As a result, the Outdoor Retailer trade show, which brings in $45 million to the local economy, is leaving the state. In an opinion piece, Gretchen Bleiler agrees that Utah doesn’t deserve the show. But now that Big Rec is on the move, where should it go? Colorado isn’t a shoo-in, Bleiler says: The state’s leaders could take a leading role to abate climate change — and if they don’t, the show should go somewhere that does.
-Gretchen Bleiler, Opinion

Pat Wayne: “Not sure I agree with the author. She makes the same tired mistakes by making big pronouncements like ‘The old extractive order is behind us.’ While that may be true in places like California … it certainly isn’t true in the USA as a whole.”
Christian Cutshaw: “If we’re going strictly off of environmental and conservation efforts, the show should go to Washington or California.”
Denece Vincent: “Moving the show out of Utah seemed reasonable. Trying to enact purity standards before ‘awarding’ the show seems a bit too ivory-tower-ish.”


Estimated number of migrating ducks that the Great Salt Lake can no longer support due to an invasion of European phragmites. The reed, a perennial grass, has covered 25,000 acres since the early 1990s, reducing habitat for phalaropes, snowy plovers and other birds, and annually sucking up a lot of water, estimated (in acre-feet) at 71,000.  -Emily Benson

Darryl Thorn, Jason Patrick, Jake Ryan and Duane Ehmer, pictured from left, were found guilty of charges associated with the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The four were minor players in the occupation, whose ringleaders, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were acquitted of charges last October.
Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office

Malheur trials are over— but the movement rages on

In late October, Ryan and Ammon Bundy, the Malheur occupation’s key players, were acquitted of all charges. The verdict surprised even the defense. But in mid-March, a new jury looked less favorably on the remaining defendants, delivering a mix of guilty and non-guilty verdicts on conspiracy and gun charges. The decision perplexed many: How does a jury find Ammon Bundy, who was touted as the leader of the occupation, not guilty of conspiracy, but convict those who played a lesser role? The recent verdicts may have further motivated the takeover’s sympathizers. To them, the guilty verdicts made martyrs of the occupiers.
-Leah Sottile 

Sunrun Solar
(Utilities) have to work with us to provide access to solar. It doesn’t matter if it’s a red state or a blue state, there’s enormous customer demand.

—Alex McDonough, vice president for policy at Sunrun, a solar panel leasing company, after Nevada and then Arizona backed off anti-solar policies that penalized consumers who installed solar energy. -Elizabeth Shogren


Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented Mexican mother of three U.S.-born children, holds her fist up as she addresses supporters gathered outside the First Unitarian Church in Denver in February. She skipped a scheduled meeting with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for fear of detention and deportation, and has been staying in the church’s basement since.
-Sarah Tory

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