Trump team caught plotting to shrink federal land for corporations


Top Trump officials accidentally revealed their plan to put the interests of corporations over the protection of national monuments.

A trove of documents accidentally released by the Trump administrations reveals a scheme to relinquish lands in national monuments to corporate interests.

Thousands of pages of documents reviewed by the Washington Post show the administration tried to hide information from the public, ignore information contrary to the corporatist goals of the Trump administration, and blindly pursue the interests of big business decisions about national parks.

The documents were accidentally released by the Interior Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and retracted a day later.

Last year, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and other department officials sought to shrink the size of national monuments. The newly released documents show that Zinke's department "rejected material that would justify keeping protections in place and sought out evidence that could buttress the case for unraveling them," reports the Post.

In one example, officials confirmed that logging efforts could be "immediately resumed" in areas near Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument if Trump shrunk the monument's size.

The Post revealed actions by Trump officials to ignore and set aside relevant information about tourism revenue, the lack of harm to fishing operators under current regulations, and reduced vandalism in designated national monument areas.

In at least one case, information was to be deleted because it "undercuts the case" the Trump administration was trying to make about fishing near the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England.

Archaeologists are particularly alarmed at the schemes of Trump officials, since national monument designations allow for more funding and research. Paleontological finds in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante have skyrocketed since it was declared a national monument in 1996.

"Secretary Zinke ignored clear warnings from his own staff that shrinking national monuments would put sacred archaeological and cultural sites at risk," says Aaron Weiss from advocacy group Center for Western Priorities. "Trying to hide those warnings from the public months later is disgraceful and possibly illegal."

As with many Trump Cabinet officials, Zinke's stint as Interior secretary has been regularly plagued by scandal. Zinke has been accused of wasteful spending, including using an expensive military plane to attend a political fundraiser.

Earlier this year, he justified his plan to nearly triple the admission price for national parks by suggesting some people were somehow not paying their fair share.

"When you give discounted or free passes to elderly, fourth graders, veterans, disabled, and you do it by the carload," Zinke said, "there’s not a whole lot of people who actually pay at our front door.”

At a congressional hearing, Zinke was insensitive and racist toward a sitting senator, prompting Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) to demand an apology.

"Zinke's comment betrayed a prejudice that being Asian makes you a perpetual foreigner," Chu said. "Intentional or not, it's offensive."

Zinke reportedly told high-ranking officials in his department that he doesn't care about diversity and thinks "it isn't important anymore."

Last year, he faced criticism for his plan to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, opening up ancestral Navajo land to drilling and mining. Zike responded to such criticism by reassigning Native American staffers in his department.

Now his department is caught up in an effort to keep information out of the public eye on the basis that it could "reveal strategy about the [national monument] review process."

The corruption of the Trump administration seems to know no bounds.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.