Public LandSocial Justice

Ryan Zinke Forced to Address Trump Administration’s Plans for Nevada’s Newest National Monuments

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke continued his jaunt through Nevada with a stop in Pahrump to announce the release of rural funds that were already appropriated. But when asked about the Trump Administration’s controversial “review” of National Monuments (including Nevada’s two monuments), Zinke was less than clear. So what exactly is in store for Nevada’s national monuments?

After sending a cryptic press advisory Friday afternoon, the Interior Department announced Secretary Ryan Zinke would make an announcement and answer questions from the press. The Interior Department only confirmed minutes before the Pahrump event that Secretary Zinke would be releasing $26.2 million in PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) funds to Nevada rural governments.

The catch? Former U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D) had fought hard for these very PILT funds during his time in office. And until this week, President Donald Trump wanted to cut PILT funds.

Photo by Andrew Davey
Zinke then faced the press.

After Zinke signed the letter releasing the PILT funds, he took questions from local media. Needless to say, reporters wanted answers on much more than PILT.

Secretary Zinke confirmed he will be returning to Nevada later in July, though this is later than the Fourth of July weekend timeframe he gave to U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) last week. Zinke then promised he will meet with Native American tribal officials to discuss Basin and Range and Gold Butte National Monuments. Zinke wouldn’t directly confirm that Nevada’s two monuments are on the short list of monuments Donald Trump is looking to downsize or eliminate, though Zinke hinted that’s the case when he stated the Trump Administration wants him to personally visit states with monuments on that “short list”.

Watch Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke take questions from local media.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in Pahrump

Posted by Nevada Forward on Monday, June 26, 2017

Public lands advocates respond.
Photo by Andrew Davey

Before Ryan Zinke’s event in Pahrump, local environmentalists and public lands advocates held a press conference in Las Vegas to ask why Zinke wouldn’t meet with them or other community leaders to discuss Gold Butte or Basin and Range.

Moapa Band of Paiutes Tribal Council Chair Darren Daboda spoke with us afterward about the importance of Nevada’s public lands to Nevada’s Native American communities. He also disputed Zinke’s claims that the Trump Administration is paying close attention to Native American communities and their concerns. Before Zinke addressed the room in Pahrump, Darren Daboda stated that the Interior Department hasn’t made any effort to communicate with his tribe.

Darren Daboda from Moapa Band of Paiutes on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's visit to Nevada

Posted by Nevada Forward on Monday, June 26, 2017

Las Vegas Paiute artist and activist Fawn Douglas also debunked Zinke’s claims on Native American outreach. Douglas hosted a forum on public lands that Zinke was invited to. No one from the Interior Department appeared at the forum.

Las Vegas Paiute artist and activist Fawn Douglas on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's visit to Nevada

Posted by Nevada Forward on Monday, June 26, 2017

And finally, there’s Yucca.

Towards the end of the Pahrump press conference, Secretary Zinke tried to sidestep questions about the Trump Administration’s pursuit of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. At the pro-public lands event in Las Vegas, Checko Salgado from Friends of Basin and Range explained how this monument literally stands in the way of nuclear waste being transported to Yucca Mountain. He also spoke about the other reasons to protect this land, such as the City land art project and the ancient Native American artifacts here.

Checko Salgado from Friends of Basin and Range on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's visit to Nevada

Posted by Nevada Forward on Monday, June 26, 2017

Nevadans may have to wait another month to learn the fate of Gold Butte and Basin and Range, as Secretary Zinke plans to return to Nevada in late July.

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