Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke accuses Democrats of holding nominees ‘hostage’ over monuments

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

FILE – In this May 9, 2017, file photo, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rides a horse in the new Bears Ears National Monument near Blanding, Utah. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says Senate Democrats are holding the department’s nominees “hostage” to a political agenda that includes opposition to his review of presidentially designated monuments.

WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says Senate Democrats are holding the department’s nominees “hostage” to a political agenda that includes opposition to his review of presidentially designated monuments.

In a sharply worded letter to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Zinke said it’s unfortunate that Democrats have placed holds on four Interior Department nominees, including its top lawyer and budget chief.

The nominees “have nothing to do with this monument review, yet they have been forced to sit on the sidelines” for months, Zinke wrote Thursday. “As a former Navy SEAL, this is not the type of hostage situation I am accustomed to.”

Zinke offered to meet with Durbin, who requested a briefing last month along with other Democratic senators to discuss the monument review.

President Donald Trump ordered the review this spring following complaints by congressional Republicans that previous presidents had misused a century-old law intended to protect federal lands, creating oversized monuments that hinder energy development, logging and other uses.

Trump called some monument designations by his Democratic predecessors “massive land grabs.”

Zinke has recommended that Trump shrink four large monuments in the West, including the sprawling Bears Ears and Grand…

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