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PNS Daily Newscast - December 8, 2017 


In focus on our Friday rundown; two members of Congress are stepping down over sexual misconduct allegations; the BLM suspends natural gas waste standards; and we have a noted historian's take on the GOP Tax plan.

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Groups Call for Zinke's Commitment to Public Lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior, led by Secretary Ryan Zinke, holds federal authority over 445 million acres of public lands. (Getty Images)
The U.S. Department of the Interior, led by Secretary Ryan Zinke, holds federal authority over 445 million acres of public lands. (Getty Images)
November 17, 2017

DENVER – On Thursday, a national coalition of sportsmen and women, recreation, business and conservation groups challenged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to make good on his promises not to hand over public lands to states.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Zinke testified that he was against the transfer and sale of public lands.

Phil Powers, a mountain guide and CEO of the American Alpine Club, says his livelihood depends on access to public lands - and if states sold those parcels to private owners to cover the costs of management, he worries the public could be fenced out.

"We don't feel that the states have the capacity to manage these lands well, not just for their own state citizens, but for our entire nation of recreationists and travelers," he warns.

Also on Thursday, Secretary Zinke announced the appointment of Brian Steed - a vocal proponent of transferring public lands to private interests - to head the Bureau of Land Management. Zinke has also recommended removing national monument protections, claiming previous administrations over-reached their authority by limiting fossil-fuel development.

Powers warns that large-scale transfers would limit public input on how lands owned by all Americans are managed, which could put the nation's $887 billion outdoor recreation economy at risk.

"We idolize the oil and gas jobs and diminish the value of the outdoor recreation jobs," he explains. "And my experience has been that the outdoor recreation jobs create sustainable, long-term livelihoods for people in the American West."

The coalition's challenge was made official after The Wilderness Society filed a legal petition under the Administrative Procedures Act. The petition gives the Interior Department six months to initiate rules to prohibit the sale or transfer of public lands unless authorized by Congress.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO