Who Are “the People”?

This past week, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, a former congressman from Montana, toured two recently created National Monuments here in Utah pursuant to an Executive Order from President Trump requiring the Secretary to re-evaluate whether these areas, and 25 others, should retain National Monument status, and if so, whether their boundaries should be reduced to allow other uses of the federal lands.

“I’m here to get acquainted with the issue,” said Zinke upon his arrival. “I like going to the front lines and actually talking to people.”

But to whom did Zinke actually talk? Although Zinke said he intended to “make sure the tribes have a voice,” the Secretary had just a single one hour meeting with the tribal council, and spent perhaps another hour over his four days talking to other tribal representatives, while spending close to a day with the governor and Utah lawmakers.

The rest of Zinke’s Utah monument tour continued this way, with the Secretary spending very little time with supporters of the monument, and considerably more time with prominent monument opponents such as House Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah; State Rep. Mike Noel, R; Gov. Gary Herbert, R; and San Juan County commissioners. He also refused to meet with local businesses and business groups in favor of retaining the two areas in their current status as National Monuments, groups such as the 49 members of the Escalante-Boulder Chamber of Commerce who expressed unanimous opposition to downsizing the monument and who pointed out that the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument had actually increased local employment and commerce, contrary to all the claims by opponents that it would hurt the local economy.

And when Zinke left Utah, what did he say? He declared, “This is the first time we’ve given locals a say.”

Right! For the most part, the vast majority of those with whom he talked were Republican elected officials [remember that Utah is a one-party state, and the most conservative in the United States at present] representing business and energy interests.

According to a spokesman for Gov. Herbert’s office, the Secretary was “very much guided by the executive order itself,” which specifically required that he consider the “concerns of State, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation.”

Well, the Secretary certainly listened to the state and local government officials [all Republican], but the local tribes, businesses, environmentalists, and others supporting the national monument status definitely got short shrift.

But Zinke can claim that he talked to the locals, and I suspect that’s all that matters to him and Trump.

2 thoughts on “Who Are “the People”?”

  1. Aaron E Meyer says:

    To quote the immortal Peter Griffin, the answer is “top men.”

  2. Daze says:

    Famously, when the Labour Party defeated Winston Churchill’s Conservatives in the 1945 election, a senior man in the British administration of India said: “the country will never stand for this!” – with the obvious implication that the electorate wasn’t ‘the country’.

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