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FOIA request for Interior Department emails and sale of US national heritage sites reveals clear and present danger

Washington Post: “In a quest to shrink national monuments last year, senior Interior Department officials dismissed evidence that these public sites boosted tourism and spurred archaeological discoveries, according to documents the department released this month and retracted a day later. The thousands of pages of email correspondence chart how Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides instead tailored their survey of protected sites to emphasize the value of logging, ranching and energy development that would be unlocked if they were not designated national monuments. Comments the department’s Freedom of Information Act officers made in the documents show that they sought to keep some of the references out of the public eye because they were “revealing [the] strategy” behind the review.,,

Aaron Weiss, a spokesman for the advocacy group Center for Western Priorities, said in an email that the “botched document dump reveals what we’ve suspected all along: Secretary Zinke ignored clear warnings from his own staff that shrinking national monuments would put sacred archaeological and cultural sites at risk.” “Trying to hide those warnings from the public months later is disgraceful and possibly illegal,” Weiss added…”

See also via Outside: “…according to a new study by the Center for Western Priorities called “Winning the West,” released Wednesday. When asked their impression of Interior Secretary Zinke, most western voters (42 percent) responded that they had an unfavorable view of his time on the job, versus those who responded favorably (25 percent) or said they don’t know (33 percent) how he has done. Even among Republicans, just 47 percent were pleased with the secretary’s work. And Zinke had especially high unfavorable ratings in Nevada and his home state of Montana…”

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