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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stepped down after a relatively short stint on the job. Like most members of President Trump’s cabinet, Zinke’s two-year tenure atop the Department of the Interior was full of remarkable achievements.
Although Trump has not yet nominated Zinke’s successor, we can be assured that the incoming secretary will inherit a position primed for even more policy progress. Without further ado, let’s take a look back at some of the Interior Department’s highlights and milestone achievements under Zinke’s leadership.
Regulatory relief: Over the past two years, the department cut red tape and reduced regulatory costs at a spectacular rate. In fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the department reduced the regulatory burden by more than $6 billion. How did this happen? The Interior Department scrapped countless onerous rules and reformed several regulations in a manner that protects wildlife and the environment while also encouraging economic growth.
For instance, Zinke’s Interior Department updated the approval process for infrastructure and energy projects on federal lands. Under Zinke, the department streamlined the permitting system under the National Environmental Policy Act, cutting the regulations from thousands of pages to just 150. The streamlined system lowered the permitting time frame from years of toil to a much more manageable monthslong process.
Zinke’s Secretarial Order 3368, which ended the practice of “sue and settle” litigation, is a regulatory model. Finally, common sense and transparency has replaced corruption and costly legal proceedings in which the Department of the Interior doled out billions of taxpayer funds to activist groups.
American energy dominance: Since Trump moved into the White House, the United States has become the global leader in oil and gas production. Zinke’s bold “America first” energy policies have turned the United States into an energy exporter and increased federal energy revenues by more than $3 billion. By substantially cutting the permitting process for oil and gas production on federal lands, Americans are enjoying much lower prices at the pump than they did through most of the Obama administration.
Additionally, the Department of the Interior has lifted bans on hydraulic fracturing, tossed out former President Barack Obama’s ban on coal mining on federal lands, and put forth a plan to take advantage of America’s massive offshore oil and natural gas reserves.
Although the Interior Department has dramatically reduced burdens and bans on fossil fuels, the agency has also maintained an eye on the future. But unlike Obama’s Interior Department, Zinke did not waste additional taxpayer dollars on useless green-energy subsidies.
Keeping Americans safe: One may not ordinarily equate the Interior Department with public safety, but the agency oversees millions of acres of federal lands, including more than than 40 percent of the land along the U.S.-Mexico border. It also employs more than 4,000 federal law enforcement officials. In 2018, under Trump’s mission to secure the U.S. southern border, Zinke sent a force of Interior Department officers to assist the U.S. Border Patrol. The results speak for themselves: From May 2018 to October 2018, Department of the Interior law enforcement seized more than 2,500 pounds of illegal drugs.
Besides helping at the border, Zinke has unleashed department personnel to tackle several other problems that previous secretaries overlooked. For example, Zinke issued a long-overdue secretarial order allowing forest management to thin overgrown forests across the United States, which many argue is a leading cause of wildfires, such as those that devastated California in 2018.
Zinke has also worked extensively with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide assistance in areas affected by hurricanes and typhoons.
Improving access to public lands: For far too long, the Department of the Interior has been overzealous in its quest to keep public lands off-limits. Unfortunately, this federal overreach has prevented Americans from enjoying full access to some of America’s most beautiful natural wonders. Fortunately, Zinke has reversed many of these errors. Zinke’s decision to “right-size” Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase National Monument, among many others, has restored more than 2 million acres of federal land for Americans to fully enjoy and develop.
Under Zinke’s tenure, the Interior Department has also allowed hunting and fishing on more than 5 million acres of federal land. Additionally, Zinke proposed the Public Lands Infrastructure Fund to build much-needed access roads and other projects on public lands. Furthermore, the agency has finally ended its cold war with ranchers across the West. Zinke, unlike his predecessors, has fought to open public lands for cattle grazing.
Although Secretary Zinke’s tenure is over, Americans everywhere should be thankful for the numerous free-market, pro-liberty reforms he instituted during his time in office.
[Originally Published at the Washington Examiner]