Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Wins "Rubber Dodo Award" For Helping To Trash America's Natural Heritage

Congratulations, sir. Gage Skidmore/Flickr; CC BY-SA 2.0

Gather round, ladies and gentlemen: The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has just announced the winner of its annual Rubber Dodo award, an ignominious accolade that’s given to the person who has “most aggressively sought to destroy America's natural heritage or drive endangered species extinct.”

Is it Donald Trump, the President that poo-poos climate science when he’s cold? What about Scott Pruitt, whose pro-fossil fuel inclinations are motivated by the Bible? Sorry, but they all pale in comparison to the winner. Step forth, Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior, and receive your prize!

If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that it’s been a tough year for the environment, and by default, for the critters that live in it. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that several members of the federal government, and the Republican Party, were in the running to receive this year’s Rubber Dodo.

A public poll to determine the winner included the aforementioned Pruitt, as well as Representative Rob Bishop of Utah. Bishop, by the way, is someone who once said that he’d be happy to “invalidate” the Endangered Species Act, and has recently overseen the creation of bills that would at least neuter the venerable, successful piece of legislation.

Zinke’s prize means that he’s arguably worse than Bishop, which may seem odd until you remember what the Interior Secretary has presided over.

Most infamously, Zinke and Trump shrunk two major National Monuments – Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. This amounted to a loss of 8,100 square kilometers (3,100 square miles) of scientifically, historically, culturally, and archaeologically significant land, the largest such rollback in American history.

The controversy over the move only intensified when it transpired that mining firms had heavily lobbied for the changes. The fun doesn’t stop there, however.

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The administration's staunchly pro-fossil fuels approach has certainly exacerbated things in the eyes of conservationists. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the area of public land for oil and gas leasing is now six times greater than that which existed back in 2016 under the Obama administration.

Zinke’s Interior Department – which the Union of Concerned Scientists described as “mandating disregard” toward science – has engaged in plenty of other ecologically unfriendly actions too, including:

Attempting to overturn a ban on importing elephant trophies from certain countries

Arranging the largest oil and gas lease sale in American history

Proposing to expand offshore drilling in multiple ecologically sensitive locations

Declined protections for several likely threatened or endangered species

Hoping to open three marine monuments to industrial commercial fishing

Demoting key scientists at the Department in the hope that they’ll quit

Nixing the Department’s climate change policies and neutering related research

Seems like a worthy Rubber Dodo award winner to us.

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