When President Donald Trump tapped then-Montana congressman Ryan Zinke to lead the Interior Department, the National Wildlife Federation had supportive words for the move even as some other big groups — including the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council — bashed the choice.
Where things stand: Around 100 days into Zinke's tenure, NWF is still waiting for Zinke to become the conservation advocate they were hoping for, and they're not happy with some early moves.
- "100 days in, we are hoping there is going to be much more focus on conservation in the months ahead," NWF President Collin O'Mara tells Axios. "We have a few areas that we are really proud that we have worked with him on, but I think we also have a lot of areas that we feel like industry's needs have come well before conservation."
O'Mara said NWF has worked with Interior on access for hunting and fishing, offshore wind, and federal preparation for wildfires. But he's troubled by Trump and Zinke's aggressive efforts to bolster fossil fuel development on federal lands and waters.
- "We are...concerned about the very one-sided executive orders on some of the extractive industries and not having the balance that we expect from the Department of the Interior of having conservation on equal footing as energy development," he said.
Big tests: In the near-term, O'Mara is closely watching Interior's review of Obama's designation of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, and how the agency approaches conservation of the greater sage grouse in western state regions coveted by oil-and-gas drillers and other interests.
Postscript: After our interview Wednesday, Interior announced a 60-day review of Obama's 2015 plan to protect the habitat of the declining sage grouse. NWF bashed Zinke's move, saying it threatens to upend "one of the most collaborative and significant conservation efforts in American history."