(The Contributor) -- With the resignation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, environmental and public lands advocates are asking: Will the new leader be any better for the environment than the previous one? And from their perspective, the answer is a resounding, “No.”
David Bernhardt, the current Deputy Interior Secretary, a former oil industry lobbyist, is likely to become Acting Secretary when Zinke leaves at the end of the year. He shares the same types of conflicts of interest his boss does. The Western Values Project (WVP), a pro-public lands group, has documented Bernhardt’s many conflicts, illustrating how his work helps special interest groups — including some of his former clients — in advancing agendas that often undermine protections for public lands and wildlife.
“Ryan Zinke’s tenure at the Department of Interior was a disaster for public lands of historic proportions,” WVP’s executive director Chris Saeger wrote in a recent statement. “The public and Congress should continue their commitment to vigilant oversight over the ongoing ethical abuses at Interior in order to repair its reputation.”
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Saeger finds little to celebrate with the latest turnover in the Trump administration: “The musical chairs that have become the hallmark of this administration mean that at least in the interim, Trump is just replacing one scandal-plagued Secretary with the ultimate DC swamp creature and ex-lobbyist David Bernhardt.”