MTPR

U.S. Department of Interior

Turmoil Shakes Up Agency In Charge Of Vast US Lands

Feb 20, 2018
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Nicky Ouellet

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A year of upheaval at the U.S. Interior Department has seen dozens of senior staff members reassigned and key leadership positions left unfilled, rules considered burdensome to industry shelved, and a sweeping reorganization proposed for its 70,000 employees.

The evolving status quo at the agency responsible for more than 780,000 square miles (2 million square kilometers) of public lands, mostly in the American West, has led to praise from energy and mining companies and Republicans, who welcomed the departure from perceived heavy-handed regulation under President Barack Obama.

Yellowstone Park's east entrance.
Diane Renkin-NPS (PD)

Visitors to Yellowstone National Park can now purchase entrance passes online instead of in person. Normally, visitors to the nation’s oldest national park had to pony up cash or a credit card to a ranger if they wanted to get in.

A Coal Mine in the Powder River basin
U.S. Geological Survey

We're getting perspective now on last week's news that the U.S. Interior Department said it had approved a major coal mine expansion in Montana. It caused the stock of the mining company involved to temporarily spike.

Six days later, Interior rescinded its statement, saying no expansion was approved, and the original approval statement was the result of “internal miscommunication.”

Emigrant Peak north of Yellowstone, near the area of a proposed Lucky Minerals mine exploration.
Flickr user Sean Wolf (CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)

Environmental groups today sued the state of Montana, attempting to block a mining company’s plans to begin exploring for gold and other precious metals in the mountains just north of Yellowstone National Park.

Glacier National Park recently reopened Lake McDonald to some motorboat users, following a months-long quarantine to keep invasive mussels out of the lake.
Nicky Ouellet

This summer one tiny-shelled invertebrate has dominated the conversation about keeping non-native species out of Montana.

Since zebra and quagga mussel larvae were detected in Tiber Reservoir last summer, local, state, tribal and federal agencies have scrambled to enact programs and policies to keep the mussels out of Montana’s waterways.

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