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Trump Decision on Federal Lands Could Curtail Obama- and Bush-Era Land Grab Abuse

The ongoing controversy about the federal government’s role in managing land may soon come to a head.

Earlier this month, in accord with a presidential executive order issued in April, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delivered recommendations to the president on national monument lands that are being reviewed by his department.

Details about the report—whether lands should be reduced, and if so, which ones—are expected from the White House in the coming days.

The highly anticipated report has stirred a great deal of angst this summer, particularly among environmental activists who are convinced the Interior’s review is an unprecedented ploy to sell off or sully federal lands.

For example, luxury outdoor retailer Patagonia argued the following in its first ever television ad: “Public lands have never been more threatened than right now because you have a few self-serving politicians who want to sell them off and make money.”

Beautiful scenes of the Grand Tetons, Yosemite, and Zion pan across the screen as the company urges viewers to defend these lands and hold Zinke accountable.

The Patagonia commercial and much of the conversation this summer have been muddled with hyperbole and misinformation. It’s worth taking a step back to understand the issue.

Who’s Involved

In April, President Donald Trump requested that Zinke review all presidential national monument designations or expansions since 1996. In particular, Trump requested review of designations of areas over 100,000 acres and/or those that were “made without adequate public outreach and coordination” to determine if revisions were necessary.

Other presidents have reviewed and altered national monuments—among them Presidents William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and Ike Eisenhower.

 

The subject of Interior’s report is presidential use of the Antiquities Act of 1906. The law allows presidents to unilaterally designate federal lands as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” These designations change how land is managed and who has access to it.

Trump is considering the need to reduce the size of, or altogether eliminate, some of these monuments.

Contrary to what the Patagonia commercial and many others would imply, reducing the size of a national monument or even rescinding its status does not open up the federal land to be overrun by oil interests or clear cut by the foresting industry.

Federal lands are managed by a web of laws determining who can do what and when. For example, at least nine other laws also address artifact preservation on federal lands.

The Lands in Question

Perhaps where environmental groups most mislead the public is in explaining which lands are being reviewed. National monuments are distinct from other land designations like national parks, which are created by Congress.

Zinke’s review covered 27 national monuments, mostly in the western United States, though some are located in New England and in offshore federal waters. In other words, this debate has nothing to do with the Grand Tetons, Yosemite, or Zion—all of which are national parks.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the federal government owns hundreds of millions of acres in America. To put that in perspective, that’s about the same size as all of Western Europe. (See Congress’ official map of federal lands below.)

Why Trump’s Upcoming Decision Matters

The reason this 110-year-old law has become so contentious is complicated.

In part, it has to do with past presidents abusing the purpose of the law. The Antiquities Act directs the president to protect artifacts on federal lands according to the “smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

However, in recent history the Antiquities Act has instead been used to pull vast swathes of land out of use.

President Barack Obama in particular used this power aggressively. The Sutherland Institute reports that 66 percent of all national monument acreage was designated so under the Obama administration, and 25 percent under President George W. Bush.

It also has to do with ensuring quality management of lands. It is no secret that the Department of Interior is facing $15.4 billion in maintenance backlogs, and $11.9 billion of that is in the National Park Service alone.

Holly Fretwell of the Property and Environment Research Center reports that “[o]nly 40 percent of park historic structures are considered to be in “good” or better condition and they need continual maintenance to remain that way.”

The “why” also has to do with who should get the most say in decision-making.

The Patagonia ad encourages people to oppose changes to national monuments because “this [land] belongs to all the people in America—it’s our heritage.” But this glosses over decades and generations’ worth of contentious debate about who “our” refers to.

Does it refer to fly fishermen, hunters, hikers, and bikers as Patagonia would have its customers believe? Does it refer to the Native Americans and locals who are directly impacted by federal land management decisions, but who have little say in the matter?

Are American natural resource industries to be excluded from the collective “our”?

If Congress doesn’t like what the Trump administration is doing, it ought to act to clarify the law. Zinke rightly noted that “the executive power under the Act is not a substitute for a lack of congressional action on protective land designations.”

At the very least, Congress ought to amend the law to give states more say in the matter.

Land management decision-making has been contentious for decades. Shifting more control from Washington to those with direct knowledge of the land in question and a clear stake in the outcome of decisions would be a step in the right direction.

Katie Tubb is a policy analyst for the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders Cries in Front of Reporters as She Reveals What’s on Trump’s Desk

Trump administration to disband another group! This one will make liberal’s heads explode!

President Trump Fires All 14 Muslim Federal Judges

JEFF SESSIONS ISSSUES STUNNING STATEMENT TO SANCTUARY CITIES

The George Soros Paid Antifa Terrorists Blocked Another Road – Get A Brutal Lesson On What A Toyota 4 Runner Tastes Like

And once again we have another weekend of George Soros sponsored anti-Trump shenanigans by the Democrat Party terror group known as ANTIFA!

But this time an SUV driver in Boston wasn’t about to have any of it. So the law-abiding American citizen did what any of us would do when surrounded by a gang of thugs wanting to cause him and his vehicle harm. So when the Antifa thug gave him the order to “Stay right there” he stepped on the accelerator and ran their communist behinds over. Score one for the rule of law!

After two people were hurt because of the SUV another member of the terror group surrounded the vehicle and was about to drag the citizen out of the car and do who knows what to him, but luckily police officials were able to get there first and come to the rescue of the driver. Glad to see the mayor of Boston didn’t order the police to stand down, like the mayor of San Jose did when the gang of illegal aliens attacked Trump supporters after the rally he had there.

Of course in the video, you can hear the terrorist Antifa members cursing up a storm in disbelief that the police would actually side against them. I guess they aren’t too accustomed to the idea of not getting their way, after all, I’m sure they have gotten their way since birth from the parents who gave them everything and who now own the basement they dwell in.

Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children Reports:

ANTIFA VIOLENCE AT BOSTON RALLY? TEARING DOWN THE CONSTITUTION

With mainstream media endorsing the actions of Antifa at Charlottesville, it’s no wonder that now Antifa violence is going to become “normal” in order to “combat hate.” The concerted efforts of left-wing groups to foment violence in the name of “peace and tolerance” has become flat out insane. Our Constitution is being torn down by anarchists.

A “Free Speech” rally in Boston on August 19 is set to become yet another mess. Rally organizers have been granted a legal permit to march, not that Antifa will care about “legal.”

Who will screw that up first?

Note on this flyer that supporting police with the thin blue line flag is considered “fascist.” Any InfoWars reporters will be considered fascist and open to attack. So much for the US Constitution and any “Free Speech.” The First Amendment is now equated with Nazis and racists.

No such thing as utopia

Here we have a pledge to purge the earth of whites and the children of whites. And by the way, they don’t really believe that line about “after the purge, we will live in a worker’s paradise free from racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and oppression.”

First off, none of them “work” so having a “worker’s paradise” would be laughable if these weren’t such vicious people. And the only “oppression” is the kind they are creating. There is no such thing as a worker’s paradise – ask the common man in China, North Korea, and Cuba. It is impossible. There is no Utopia.

Targets by design

Never forget that these are paid anarchists, paid protesters, all designed to destroy the Trump presidency and tear down the fabric of the United States.

Boston planned 8 “anti-hate” rallies and vigils leading up to the “Free Speech” rally on Saturday according to Boston.com. Boston Magazine printed an article that was titled “How to protest the free speech rally,” which advises people not to bring weapons, and to be civil. It appears from the flyers that Antifa has no desire to be “civil.”

A Facebook page has been setup to protest the “White Nationalists” that are coming to Boston. Have you noticed that advocating free speech is now automatically labelled as ‘White Nationalism?’ And that the whites are automatically there to “intimidate” people?

“On Saturday, August 19th, White Nationalists are converging on Boston Common to reinforce their white supremacist ideology and attempt to intimidate queer and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, POC) communities.

As we have seen with the events in Charlottesville and around the country, white nationalists are emboldened by the current political administration and growing police state. Rallies and marches organized by white supremacists are more prevalent than in recent years, and—as always—it is the most marginalized who are left vulnerable.” Counter Protest Facebook page

Remember this from Saul Alinsky, one of Hillary’s mentors:

“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.” Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals.

These terrorists better be very careful. The American Public is a peaceful bunch. They don’t put up with lawlessness like this for long, and they are already growing very weary of constantly seeing scenes like this every time they watch the evening news. The late 60s were also tumultuous times, but in those days the Democrat Party wasn’t the one who was fanning the flames and instigating the violence because they lost an election!

TRUMP AND AMERICA WINS --

A lawsuit against the Justice Department has revealed new details about the infamous tarmac meeting between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton

Due to a Freedom of Information Act request from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the DOJ released 413 pages of documents related to the June 27, 2016 meeting.

The documents revealed that reporters were reluctant to cover the the meeting, and also that Lynch used an alias for official DOJ emails, including those related to the meeting.

Jay Sekulow, an attorney for President Trump and chief counsel for the ACLJ, said the documents also show that there were email exchanges between the FBI and the DOJ, and the DOJ and the White House, regarding the controversial meeting.

This may have been the one time that conservatives were hoping that President Trump would actually lash out and smack Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) down. Instead, this is the one time that President Trump actually responded in a “politically” correct manner. Which is not a good thing for the GOP or the nation. On Tuesday evening McConnell could be heard whining about the amount of pressure that President Trump was putting on the GOP leadership in their efforts to repeal Obamacare. Here’s what ABC reported about McConnell’s comments: Speaking at a Rotary Club gathering in Kentucky on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vented about how President Donald Trump‘s lack of political experience has led to him setting “excessive expectations” for legislative priorities. McConnell, R-Ky., told the group in Florence that he found it “extremely irritating” that Congress has earned the reputation of not accomplishing anything. “Part of the reason I think that the storyline is that we haven’t done much is because, in part, the president and others have set these early timelines about things need to be done by a certain point,” said McConnell, a Republican and the state’s senior senator… “Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before. And I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process,” McConnell told the group. “So part of the reason I think people feel we’re underperforming is because too many artificial deadlines — unrelated to the reality of the complexity of legislating — may not have been fully understood.” President Trump’s chief defender on Fox News, Sean Hannity, had a terse response for McConnell’s complaints. Sadly, President Trump didn’t feel the need to attack McConnell for his comments. Instead, the President decided to give McConnell an unnecessary show of support. In a decision that I believe the President will come to regret, Trump finally decided to endorse a candidate in the Alabama Republican Senate primary. There has been an ongoing battle brewing in Alabama between the Establishment (led by McConnell) and conservatives. The Establishment wants Luther Strange to be the next Senator from Alabama, while conservatives would rather Judge Roy Moore (or Rep. Mo Brooks). Moore has a wide lead over Strange who is barely ahead of Brooks in the most recent polls… but all of this math may be about to change. Why? Because President Trump has stepped in and done McConnell and the establishment a favor by endorsing Luther Strange. The Conservative Review is not impressed with this endorsement: Let’s put aside the fact that Luther Strange has been embraced by every lobbyist, special interest cartel, Mitch McConnell, and Karl Rove. This man has already been in office for six months and has quietly gone along with every last morsel of McConnell’s agenda. When Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz were fighting to repeal Obamacare, Strange was never anywhere close to the fight. Indeed, he’s been in the witness protection program on every issue. Which is just the way McConnell likes it. This is a major misstep by President Trump. Luther Strange is an establishment tool, but Judge Moore would be a strong ally of the President in Congress. By endorsing Strange the President is tacitly giving his endorsement of McConnell’s failed leadership and he is helping the D.C. Swamp survive. Please Mr. President, reverse your decision to endorse Strange and call for new blood in the Senate.

by Martin Lioll

The food stamp rolls have reduced by 1.1 million individuals since Donald Trump took office in January, a new report from the United States Department of Agriculture revealed this week.

The number of those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dropped to 41,496,255 in May of 2017, compared to 42,691,363 at the beginning of the year — a 2.79 percent drop

According to Breitbart, that’s the lowest level in food stamp usage since 2010.

Abuse of the food stamp program has been one of the targets of the Trump administration thus far. According to Politico, the president’s budget “asks Congress to slash food stamp spending in fiscal year 2018 by more than a quarter” and to get states to step up their share of spending for the program.

“A small part of those savings would come from tightening work requirements for able-bodied individuals, but the vast majority of the proposed sum would come from making states match 20 percent of the federal SNAP outlay,” Politico reported.

“The documents released by (the Office of Management and Budget) didn’t provide details on where all the cuts would be generated. But a lengthy table included among the newly released budget docs proposes raising $2.3 billion in SNAP retailer fees over the next decade to help defray costs of the program.”

While liberals may rage about these changes, the fact is that the Trump administration is putting Obama to shame. This is one of the most abused programs in the federal pantheon, and food stamp leeches are something that Washington should have done something about long, long ago. Trump’s administration is coming through, and conservatives deserve to be thrilled.

Please like and share on Facebook and Twitter if you agree.

What are your thoughts on this story? Scroll down to comment below!

TRUMP SETS MCCONNELL STRAIGHT

by Keely Sharp

According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, President Donald Trump has high expectations that he expects to be done in a quick manner.

He went after Trump’s “excessive expectations” of legal processes on Monday, expressing his frustration.

McConnell said, “Now our new president has of course not been in this line of work before. And I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process. And so, part of the reason I think people feel like we’re underperforming is because too many artificial deadlines unrelated to the reality and the complexity of legislature may not have been fully understood.”

He’s right. Trump hasn’t done that “line” of work before. He has run multi-million dollar businesses though and he knows how to make things work.

President Trump fired back on Wednesday. He tweeted, “Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?”

Boom.

It’s interesting that McConnell would whine so much about Trump. Perhaps he’s not used to having to get work done in a timely manner? Now he has a commander who demands for work to actually be done and ol’ Mitch can’t handle it.

The Hill reports:

Trump’s tweet comes weeks after the Senate failed to pass legislation repealing ObamaCare. During the process, Trump and his GOP allies often were not on the same page.

If the finger pointing continues, it could endanger the president’s effort to pass a major overhaul of the tax code by year’s end.

The squabbling could also shadow two must-pass votes when Congress returns to Washington in September: a government-funding bill and a measure to extend the Treasury Department’s borrowing authority.

Frustration with Congress has spread among Trump and his allies ever since the late July failure on healthcare.

“More excuses. @SenateMajLdr must have needed another 4 years – in addition to the 7 years — to repeal and replace Obamacare,” White House social media Dan Scavino tweeted earlier Wednesday, in language the president mimicked in his own tweet.

Fox News host Sean Hannity, a vocal Trump backer, lambasted McConnell as “WEAK” and “SPINELESS” in a late Tuesday night tweet.

Perhaps it’s time to drain the swamp of the RINOs, such as McConnell, John McCain, and Paul Ryan. They are not working to better the lives of the people who put them in office. No, they are working to make their wallets fatter.

Under Trump, Coal Mining Gets New Life on U.S. Lands

DECKER, Mont. — The Trump administration is wading into one of the oldest and most contentious debates in the West by encouraging more coal mining on lands owned by the federal government. It is part of an aggressive push to both invigorate the struggling American coal industry and more broadly exploit commercial opportunities on public lands.

The intervention has roiled conservationists and many Democrats, exposing deep divisions about how best to manage the 643 million acres of federally owned land — most of which is in the West — an area more than six times the size of California. Not since the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion during the Reagan administration have companies and individuals with economic interests in the lands, mining companies among them, held such a strong upper hand.

Clouds of dust blew across the horizon one recent summer evening as a crane taller than the Statue of Liberty ripped apart walls of a canyon dug deep into the public lands here in the Powder River Basin, the nation’s most productive coal mining region. The mine pushes right up against a reservoir, exposing the kind of conflicts and concerns the new approach has sparked.

“If we don’t have good water, we can’t do anything,” said Art Hayes, a cattle rancher who worries that more mining would foul a supply that generations of ranchers have relied upon.

During the Obama administration, the Interior Department seized on the issue of climate change and temporarily banned new coal leases on public lands as it examined the consequences for the environment. The Obama administration also drew protests from major mining companies by ordering them to pay higher royalties to the government.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Art Hayes and cattle on his ranch. He worries that more mining will foul a water supply that ranchers have long relied upon.CreditKristina Barker for The New York Times

President Trump, along with roundly questioning climate change, has moved quickly to wipe out those measures with the support of coal companies and other commercial interests. Separately, Mr. Trump’s Interior Department is drawing up plans to reduce wilderness and historic areas that are now protected as national monuments, creating even more opportunities for profit.

Richard Reavey, the head of government relations for Cloud Peak Energy, which operates a strip mine here that sends coal to the Midwest and increasingly to coal-burning power plants in Asia said Mr. Trump’s change of course was meant to correct wrongs of the past.

Document: Obama-Era Fight Over Coal Royalties Turns Into Trump-Era Alliance

The Obama administration, he said, had become intent on killing the coal industry, and had used federal lands as a cudgel to restrict exports. The only avenues of growth currently, given the shutdown of so many coal-burning power plants in the United States, are markets overseas.

“Their goal, in collusion with the environmentalists, was to drive us out of the export business,” Mr. Reavey said.

Even with the moves so far, the prospect of coal companies operating in a big way on federal land — and for any major job growth — is dim, in part because environmentalists have blocked construction of a coal export terminal, and there is limited capacity at the port the companies use in Vancouver.

Competition from other global suppliers offering coal to Asian power plants is also intense.

But at least for now, coal production and exports are rising in the Powder River Basin after a major decline last year.

Western Coal

The majority of United States coal is produced in the West, with a small share of it then exported. About 85 percent of coal extracted from federal lands comes from the Powder River Basin, in Wyoming and Montana. The Trump administration is rolling back an Obama-era moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.

U.S. COAL EXPORTS

U.S. COAL PRODUCTION, BY REGION

40

million short tons

300

million short tons

Quarterly

Quarterly

250

30

200

Western region

20

150

100

Interior region

10

50

Appalachian region

0

0

’10

’11

’12

’13

’14

’15

’16

’17

’10

’11

’12

’13

’14

’15

’16

’17

Opponents of the Trump administration’s direction have already gone to court. New Mexico and California sued in April to undo the rollback in royalties that coal mines pay, while ranchers like Mr. Hayes and the Cheyenne tribe joined a lawsuit in March challenging the repeal of a year-old moratorium on federal coal leasing.

“If we hand over control of these lands to a narrow range of special interests, we lose an iconic part of the country — and the West’s identity,” said Chris Saeger, executive director of the Montana-based environmental group Western Values Project, referring to coal mining and oil and gas drilling that the Interior Department is moving to rapidly expand.

Mr. Trump’s point man is Ryan Zinke, a native Montanan who rode a horse to work on his first day as head of the Interior Department. A former member of the Navy SEALs and Republican congressman, Mr. Zinke oversees the national park system, as well as the Bureau of Land Management, which controls 250 million acres nationwide, parts of which are used to produce oil, gas, coal, lumber and hay.

In late June, Mr. Zinke visited Whitefish, Mont., to attend a meeting of Western governors, where he vowed to find a balance between extracting commodities from federal lands and protecting them.

Photo

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, left, with Bill Cadman of Whiting Petroleum in Whitefish, Mont., in June. “We are all affected by this constant regulatory quagmire,” Mr. Cadman said. CreditTim Goessman for The New York Times

“Our greatest treasures are public lands,” Mr. Zinke said in a speech. “It is not a partisan issue. It is an American issue.”

Afterward, protesters from the Sierra Club and other groups held a rally in the town square against the actions taken by Mr. Zinke during his first months on the job, chanting “Shame!” and “Liar!” and carrying signs opposing his policies.

But Mr. Zinke was not in public view. Just before the rally started, he was inside a nearby building, meeting with Bill Cadman, a vice president of Whiting Petroleum, a company that drills on federal lands.

Until recently a state legislator in Colorado, Mr. Cadman has lobbied the Interior Department to repeal a rule that limits methane emissions from oil and gas sites on federal land. As he left the brief gathering, Mr. Cadman said he was only catching up with Mr. Zinke, whom he has known for decades, on family-related matters. He also acknowledged that Mr. Zinke wielded a lot of power over the energy industry.

“We are all affected by this constant regulatory quagmire,” Mr. Cadman said.

Seeing a Liberal Attack

Cloud Peak Energy had been preparing for several years to seize upon the arrival of an industry-friendly administration in Washington. But it was also prepared to fight without one.

At a gathering of a coal industry trade group in 2015, Mr. Reavey, the company’s chief lobbyist, left no doubts about the company’s determination to defend mining in the Powder River Basin, which includes operations here in Decker.

Mr. Reavey likened the industry’s existential crisis to that of tobacco companies in the 1990s. The coal industry, he told executives, had been targeted by a liberal conspiracy of environmental groups, news organizations and regulators. Coal would suffer the same fate as cigarettes, he warned, unless the industry stood its ground.

Photo

A rally in Whitefish in June. “If we hand over control of these lands to a narrow range of special interests, we lose an iconic part of the country,” the leader of an environmental group said. CreditTim Goessman for The New York Times

He showed a PowerPoint slide that outlined the strategy of the industry’s opponents. They sought to diminish coal’s “social acceptability,” the slide showed, while also cutting “profits through massive increase in regulation” and reduced “demand/market access.” He equated the situation to a scene in the film “Independence Day” in which the American president asks the alien invaders, “What is it you want us to do?” An alien replies, “Die.”

During President Barack Obama’s second term, the coal industry’s chief antagonist was Sally Jewell, a former oil industry engineer appointed Interior secretary in 2013. Ms. Jewell, an avid hiker, had also served as chief executive of the outdoor gear company REI.

She saw mining companies as a particular problem because they too often left behind polluted mine pits and paid too little for coal leases on federal land.

Starting two years ago, Ms. Jewell took a series of steps to change the relationship between coal companies and the federal government. She imposed a moratorium on new federal coal leases while beginning a three-year study of the industry’s environmental consequences. More than 40 percent of all coal mined in the United States comes from federal land, and when burned it generates roughly 10 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, she called for greater transparency in the awarding of coal leases, and she backed an increase in the royalty payments made to operate coal mines on public lands.

“The corruption in the coal sector is just so rampant,” she said in an interview.

A central problem, she said, was the lack of competitive bidding for mining leases: Only 11 of the 107 sales of federal coal leases between 1990 and 2012 received more than one bid, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. A second study, by a nonprofit think tank, estimated that the practice had shortchanged taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

Another hot-button issue was how much to charge in royalties, which generate about $1 billion a year for the federal government.

Under federal rules adopted in 1920, coal companies are required to pay “not less than” 12.5 percent on sales of surface coal mined on federal lands. But for years, studies indicate, the companies paid far less — as little as 2.5 percent of the ultimate sale price — because they often negotiated large royalty discounts with sympathetic federal officials. Companies also often sell coal first to a corporate affiliate at a sharply reduced price, before reselling it to the intended customer, costing the government a chunk of its royalties, according to the Government Accountability Office study. The technique was particularly popular among mines with foreign buyers.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Mining operations in 2014 in the Powder River Basin, the nation’s most productive coal mining region. CreditBruce Gordon/EcoFlight

To eliminate the loophole, the Interior Department adopted a rule last yearrequiring that the payment be calculated on the first arm’s lengthtransaction, meaning sales to corporate affiliates would not count. Such a change would be a blow to the bottom lines of companies mining in the Powder River Basin, which accounts for about 85 percent of all coal extracted from federal lands, with a growing share headed to Asia.

The coal industry was bent on killing the rule, sending executives to plead its case to the White House and filing a federal lawsuit to block it. “They are liars, and they know it,” Mr. Reavey, the Cloud Peak lobbyist, said of those who suggested the industry was not paying its fair share in royalties.

Mr. Zinke, then a freshman congressman from Montana, stepped up as an important industry ally, trying unsuccessfully to derail the rule on at least four occasions. He raised objections during a budget hearing with Ms. Jewell at the witness table, signed two letters in opposition and sought to introduce language in a House appropriations bill to prohibit the agency from enforcing the rule.

The alliance between Mr. Zinke and the coal industry is well documented in his campaign finance disclosures.

Elected to the House in 2014, Mr. Zinke received $14,000 in campaign donations from the company that owns BNSF Railway, the chief transporter of coal in the Powder River Basin, as well as a total of $26,000 from Cloud Peak, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources, three of the nation’s largest coal companies. Several of the donations arrived just as Mr. Zinke pushed in Congress to block the new royalty rule, campaign finance records show.

Finishing the Job

What Representative Zinke started, Secretary Zinke and his team were poised to finish.

In February, even before the Senate confirmed Mr. Zinke to his new post, Mr. Reavey of Cloud Peak was meeting at the Interior Department headquarters in Washington with President Trump’s political appointees. Among them was Kathy Benedetto, who was temporarily overseeing the division in charge of coal leases.

Photo

Alvin Not Afraid, far right, the Crow Nation chairman, with President Trump at the White House in June.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“We made clear that we thought this rule was bad and they had an opportunity to stop this process from going forward,” he said of the change in royalty payments.

Cloud Peak and other mining industry giants also put their objections in writing, asking the department to delay the rule until the industry’s lawsuit was resolved. Within days, they got their wish. The agency, reversing its position during the Obama presidency, froze the rule and told Cloud Peakand other industry lawyers that they had “raised legitimate questions.”

By late March, after Mr. Zinke was sworn in, the rollback continued. Mr. Zinke repealed Ms. Jewell’s moratorium on new coal leases, and canceled further work on the study she had ordered. The first part — 1,378 pages examining 306 active federal coal leaseshad been issued in January.

Document: An Election Reverses Federal Coal Policy

“Costly and unnecessary,” Mr. Zinke said in announcing that the study was, in essence, being thrown in the trash.

The decisions caused an uproar among Democrats in Washington, but the tensions they unleashed were also on display this summer at an extreme sporting event on the Crow Indian reservation, not far from the coal mines here in Decker.

Hundreds of people, including members of both the Crow and neighboring Cheyenne tribes, had gathered for an annual competition known as the Ultimate Warrior. The event consists of a mile run to a river, a mile of canoeing, seven more miles of running and then a nine-mile bareback horse race.

Cloud Peak is a sponsor of the event. In 2013, the Crow had signed an agreement giving the company the right to extract up to 1.4 billion tons of coal on the tribe’s lands. The industry-friendly approach of the Trump administration had leaders feeling optimistic that Cloud Peak would move forward, as the project still needs many permits from the federal government.

The tribe estimates the Cloud Peak operations could generate $10 million in payments for a community where the unemployment rate in June was 19.4 percent, five times the state average. “Coal, for us, is the ticket to prosperity,” said Shawn Backbone, the tribe’s vice secretary, who attended the warrior competition. “We are rich in coal reserves. But we are cash poor.”

But the Cheyenne are not happy. They have historically opposed coal mining and worry Cloud Peak’s expansion would irrevocably damage the environment. They have joined the lawsuit by the nearby rancher, Mr. Hayes, challenging the decision to lift the moratorium on new coal leases.

“We are wealthy in life here,” said Donna Fisher, a Cheyenne who lives along the Tongue River and who attended the warrior competition with her grandson. “We don’t have money. But we have land, water and air. Snuff that out and we are gone.”

Continue reading the main story

Photo

The Tongue River in Montana. “We have land, water and air,” said Donna Fisher, a Cheyenne who lives along the river. “Snuff that out and we are gone.” CreditKristina Barker for The New York Times

Friends in High Places

As he walked on stage at the governor’s gathering in Whitefish, Mr. Zinke exuded confidence. The United States, he argued, can and should expand energy production from its federal lands, with money earned from leases going toward repairs to roads and bridges, and at national parks.

“As Interior secretary, I am looking at both sides of our balance sheet,” Mr. Zinke said. “There is a consequence of not using some of our public land for the creation of wealth and jobs.”

It was a decidedly familiar venue, and Mr. Zinke was relaxed. Whitefish is where he played guard on the high school footballteam and where as a Boy Scout he had built a rope-and-pole footbridge over the river.

“I think I am probably the only person who has played trombone on this stage,” he joked in his opening remarks.

The top sponsors of the event were familiar, too. They included Anadarko Petroleum and BP, oil and gas companies, as well as Barrick Gold and Newmont, mining companies. BNSF, the railroad, was also represented, as were major coal-burning utilities like Southern Company.

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A coal train in Sheridan, Wyo. “I am looking at both sides of our balance sheet,” Mr. Zinke said. CreditKristina Barker for The New York Times

Most of them had a keen interest in the Interior Department and Mr. Zinke’s new stewardship of it. Barrick’s Cortez mine, for example, has a pending application to expand open pit mining in Nevada, while Newmont is seeking approval for the environmental cleanup of a Nevada mine.

Conrad Anker, a mountaineer and author, took the stage after Mr. Zinke. He said in an interview that organizers had instructed him not to mention climate change, or its effect on the glaciers at Glacier National Park. According to a federal study, the glaciers have lost as much as 85 percent of their mass over the past 50 years.

There was no such restraint on the nearby town square, where protesters flashed signs with slogans like “Zinke Sells Soul to Big Oil” and “What Would Teddy Do?” — a reference to Mr. Zinke’s statements that he admired President Theodore Roosevelt, a conservationist who helped set aside millions of acres as public land.

Next to the square, at a pizza restaurant, a once-powerful Washington couple reflected on the frustration of those opposed to the administration’s new direction.

Jennifer Palmieri, a senior adviser in the Obama White House and later a top campaign aide to Hillary Clinton, was eating with her husband, Jim Lyons, an Interior official during Mr. Obama’s second term.

Both had expected senior administration roles had Mrs. Clinton won. Now, Mr. Lyons was in Whitefish trying to salvage the rules on oil, gas and coal that he had helped develop just a few years ago. He was holding sessions with governors hoping to enlist them to pressure Mr. Zinke and others.

“Instead of driving change, we are searching for ways to continue to be an influence,” Mr. Lyons said. “Frustration is an understatement.”

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