Ryan Zinke is in trouble. Allegations of private gain from his position as Secretary of the Interior have led to investigations and concern about potential conflicts of interest.
But to many observers of government policy since Donald Trump’s inauguration, Zinke’s most scandalous decisions are those transforming public lands at the expense of the environment and respect for scientific expertise. By expanding offshore drilling and shrinking national monuments, scrubbing “climate change” from government documents and improperly reassigning senior officials, Trump and Zinke routinely challenge what it means to act as steward of the nation’s public lands.
Sean Hecht is co-executive director of the UCLA Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. His interests cover coastal management, adaptations to impacts of climate change, federal public lands, and the use of science in informing government decision making. For the first video in our new series on the role of expertise in public policy, the Bulletin asked Hecht to react to some of the most eyebrow-raising statements and actions coming out of Zinke’s Department of the Interior.
The “Say WHAT?” series casts a wry eye on the devaluation of scientific expertise by government agencies and examines its impact on public policy. Each episode engages experts to comment on how science denial affects policy around nuclear risk, climate change, and disruptive technologies. Tune in monthly as we ask: Say WHAT?