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Utah leaders, environmentalists react to Zinke resignation

By Jasen Lee, KSL | Posted - Dec 15th, 2018 @ 9:39pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Reaction to the resignation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was mixed in the Beehive State.

While members of the state's congressional delegation were complimentary, local environmental groups expressed ironic gratitude on the news of Zinke's impending departure.

First District Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who also serves as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement regarding Zinke's resignation, noting "we owe him a debt of gratitude."

“In the world of Washington politics, Zinke was an anomaly. He had a vision of a better future - an efficient department; a park system without a backlog; a staff who listened," Bishop said. "Where others dithered, he got stuff done.”

Republican Rep. Chris Stewart said "Secretary Zinke has provided bold leadership and delivered on issues important to Utahns. On behalf of our state, thank you for your service, Mr. Secretary. You will be missed."

Local environmental advocates were less effusive.

"Ryan Zinke's tenure at the Department of Interior was a disaster for public lands of historic proportions," said Western Values Project Director Chris Saeger. "The public and Congress should continue their commitment to vigilant oversight over the ongoing ethical abuses at Interior in order to repair its reputation."

Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance legal director, said Utah’s federal public lands "are unquestionably worse off because of Zinke’s corrupt and disastrous tenure as secretary of the Interior."

“From spearheading the dismantling of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments to fast-tracking oil and gas leasing across Utah’s red rock wilderness, Zinke’s legacy is one of prioritizing short-term exploitation and profiteering over the protection and sound stewardship of America’s public lands," Block said.

“Zinke will go down as the worst Interior secretary in history," said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "His slash-and-burn approach was absolutely destructive for public lands and wildlife.”

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While Bishop did not directly respond to a question about whether he was under consideration for the post, the congressman did say the new secretary needs to carry forward Zinke's "vision."

"They must continue addressing the maintenance backlog on public lands, continue the effort to reorganize the department, and continue to engage state and local officials," Bishop said.

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