MTPR

Ryan Zinke

Turmoil Shakes Up Agency In Charge Of Vast US Lands

Feb 20, 2018
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Nicky Ouellet

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A year of upheaval at the U.S. Interior Department has seen dozens of senior staff members reassigned and key leadership positions left unfilled, rules considered burdensome to industry shelved, and a sweeping reorganization proposed for its 70,000 employees.

The evolving status quo at the agency responsible for more than 780,000 square miles (2 million square kilometers) of public lands, mostly in the American West, has led to praise from energy and mining companies and Republicans, who welcomed the departure from perceived heavy-handed regulation under President Barack Obama.

An informational sign at the entrance of the National Bison Range near Moiese, MT.
Josh Burnham

Federal wildlife officials have agreed to prepare a conservation plan for Montana's National Bison Range as part of a settlement in a lawsuit brought by an environmental group. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will prepare what’s called a comprehensive conservation plan, or CCP, for the Bison Range by 2023.

Bison at the Stephens Creek Capture facility north of Yellowstone Park in 2015.
Jim Peaco (CC-BY-2)

Yellowstone National Park has opened a criminal investigation to determine how more than 50 of its bison escaped through a cut fence at a quarantine facility. Authorities say it appears somebody cut the fence with bolt cutters.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke calls the incident “devastating.”

Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.
Bureau of Land Management

Local environmental organizations are worried about what President Donald Trump’s decision on national monuments in Utah means for Montana's public lands.

Huddled behind his white pickup truck in northwestern Montana, Roland Kennerly stuffs his hands into his coat pockets.

"Oh, this wind," he says. "It's starting to snow now."

The road had turned into a muddy slop leading towards a pocket of socked-in mountains and roadless grassland known as the Badger-Two Medicine area.

"You can only get in there by walking or by horseback, so it keeps it in its natural state," Kennerly says. "I hope it stays that way, for my kids and my kids' kids."

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