Interior Department

Three-fourths of U.S. wildland firefighters get a pay raise

More than 14,800 of the federal government's wildland firefighters will see a raise, to $15 an hour, in their paychecks next week, said the Interior and Agriculture departments on Tuesday. The additional pay will cost nearly $32 million.

Logging sabotage incident snags BLM nominee

Republican senators from the West say Tracy Stone-Manning is disqualified from serving as director of the Bureau of Land Management because of her involvement in a logging sabotage episode in 1989. Idaho Sen. James Risch charged on Wednesday that Stone-Manning had "colluded with eco-terrorists."

Monarch butterflies are in peril but won’t go on U.S. endangered list

The orange-and-black monarch butterfly, known for its 3,000-mile migration across North America and its plunging population, meets the criteria for listing as a threatened or endangered species, said the Interior Department on Tuesday. But it will be listed only as a candidate for federal  protection because "we must focus resources on our higher-priority listing actions," said Fish and Wildlife Service director Aurelia Skipwith.

Zinke plan for federal land: Drill, baby, drill

The Interior Department would auction off millions of acres of public land for oil and gas development, according to a draft obtained by The Nation of the department's strategic plan for the next five years. "It states that the DOI is committed to achieving 'American energy dominance' through the exploitation of 'vast amounts' of untapped energy reserves on public lands."

Whistleblower resigns at Interior, says Zinke should do the same

An Interior Department employee who says he was reassigned because he warned about the threats posed by climate change resigned in a letter that accuses Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of poor leadership, wasting taxpayer money, and ignoring clear evidence of the damage caused by global warming.

Zinke’s travel raises eyebrows

The Inspector General has launched an investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s air travel, after complaints that Zinke was using a private plane owned by an oil executive. That particular flight, from Las Vegas to Zinke’s home state of Montana, cost taxpayers $12,000, according to the Washington Post.  But other taxpayer-funded flights, including one to speak at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, are also being questioned.

U.S. halts study of health risks and mountaintop coal mining

Facing a proposed budget cut, an Interior Department agency told the National Academy of Sciences to stop work on a study into the health risks faced by Appalachian residents who live near mountaintop removal coal-mining sites, said the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail.

USDA considers consolidating some offices with other departments

When "USDA" and "co-location of offices" appear in the same sentence, it usually means there's a proposal to consolidate USDA's local operations, particularly crop subsidy and land stewardship, into the same building. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue talked about co-location at the Iowa Ag Summit, but he meant a central location for handling permits from the USDA, Interior Department and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, reports Agri-Pulse.

Zinke opts for no change in Missouri Breaks National Monument

As part his review of two dozen national monuments, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he will recommend no change in 378,000-acre Upper Missouri River Breaks monument in central Montana. Zinke is under orders from President Trump to report by Labor Day whether the government should scale back the boundaries of national monuments designated since 1995 and covering more than 100,000 acres; Bears Ears in southeastern Utah was singled out for special attention by Trump.

Senate confirms lobbyist Bernhardt as No. 2 at Interior

Colorado native David Bernhardt won Senate confirmation as deputy Interior secretary, the No. 2 job at the department, on a mostly party-line vote, reported the Denver Post. A high-ranking Interior official in the past and most recently part of a law-and-lobbying firm in Denver, Bernhardt was described by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren as a walking conflict of interest.

Zinke says Bears Ears National Monument should be smaller

In an interim report to President Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah should be scaled down, without suggesting the appropriate size.

USDA and Interior stress cooperation in fighting wildfires

The two largest public-lands agencies in the United States, the Interior and Agriculture departments, “signed a memorandum emphasizing cooperation among federal, state, tribal and local agencies in battling wildfires as the main part of the wildfire season arrives,” said The Associated Press. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed the memorandum following a briefing at the interagency fire command center in Boise, Idaho.

Zinke tours Bears Ears, says Native Americans are ‘smart, capable’

During the first day of his tour of Bears Ears National Monument, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke disagreed with Utah officials who have claimed that Native Americans who support the monument are manipulated by special interest groups, says The Salt Lake Tribune.

EPA and Interior overhaul scientific advisory boards to favor industry

In a move meant to stem government regulation, the EPA is cutting academic scientists from its scientific review board and replacing them with industry representatives, while the Interior Department prepares for a review of the scientists on its own advisory council.

Senate expected to confirm Zinke for Interior secretary Wednesday

With Democrats demanding full consideration of President Trump's cabinet nominees, the Senate is expected to vote today at mid-morning on the nomination of Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke for Interior secretary. He would win confirmation easily, if the 67-31 vote on Monday to limit debate on the nomination is an indicator.

Zinke is no zealot, but ranchers and greens have much to worry about

Rep. Ryan Zinke, a Montana Republican, is reportedly president-elect Donald Trump’s choice to run the U.S. Department of the Interior. Zinke, who has both voted against the transfer of public lands to states and advocated for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund — a priority for sportsmen — is not as divisive a pick as other rumored contenders, such as oil-friendly Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin or former Alaska Gov. Sarah “drill baby drill” Palin. That said, environmentalists aren’t exactly cheering, either.

Trump chooses Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke for Interior

In a switch, President-elect Donald Trump settled on Rep. Ryan Zinke, a Montana Republican just elected to his second term in the House, for secretary of the Interior, said NBC News, one of several news organizations to report the decision. Zinke, 55, "described as an avid hunter and fisherman, was an early and consistent supporter of Trump's campaign," said NBC.

Politico: Anti-ethanol oilman Lucas is Trump’s front-runner for Interior chief

The leading contender for Interior secretary if Republican Donald Trump becomes president is Forrest Lucas of Indiana, the founder of Lucas Oil, says Politico, citing two sources familiar with the campaign's deliberations. Lucas is a long-time opponent of biofuels and a founder of a group that challenges animal-rights organizations.

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