Ryan Zinke, Trump’s hatchet man for the Department of the Interior, has recommended that four huge national monuments be chopped, the better to feed them to the timber industry. According to the Post:
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending that four large national monuments in the West be reduced in size, potentially opening up hundreds of thousands of acres of land revered for natural beauty and historical significance to mining, logging and other development. Zinke’s recommendation, revealed in a leaked memo submitted to the White House, prompted an outcry from environmental groups who promised to take the Trump administration to court to block the moves.
I used to work at a newspaper in Oklahoma. Press coverage is a scarce resource, and part of being a journalist is deciding who gets it: what causes, events, and people are worth highlighting? Several times a week, the strangest people would wander into the newsroom, wild of eye and creaky of reason. They’d had a vision, you see, and if we only published it, we would save the world. They had the most dream-like ideas for world reformation, moral rebuilding, social hygiene. The guy who proposed National Hug Day was my favorite: a genuinely sweet elderly man who had a laminated card which read—get ready for it—NATIONAL HUG DAY. I think on him, often. The visitors had the most amazing visions and the smallest practical sense on how to achieve them—or how, once achieved, these schemes would effectively change the world. This isn’t that odd. Ideas are cheap; implementation is the expensive part. Thinking things through is quite different from inventing them. Charles Ponzi was apparently convinced his scheme would eventually turn a profit. Being the doorman at a newsroom is like listening to your grandparents talk about Obama: you’re almost too impressed by their imagination to be offended.
Ryan Zinke chopping the National Monuments down, to pawn them for a few extra bucks, takes this kind of imagination. It’s so pluperfectly bravura idiotic that it makes the burning of one million pounds by the K Foundation in 1994 look prudent and Rotarian by comparison. What a tribute to the short-sighted skill of favor-buying.
The only difference between the missionaries in my newsroom and the lobbyists who bought Ryan Zinke is access. The future-sellers who shortchanged the next ten generations of Americans had the ATM to buy access, and the visionaries who came to my room didn’t. That’s the only gap between them. Per the Post, the properties that industry bought from Zinke would be the Gold Butte in Nevada, the Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon, as well as the Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah. That’s three point six million acres, approximately the size of Connecticut. No President has ever thought it proper to scratch a monument out of existence, until Trump and his henchman, Zinke.
But they’ve done us all a mighty favor: these natural prodigies were merely physical, earthy miracles. Zinke and Trump are giving us something even more sublime, and awe-inspiring: a man-made mausoleum to America’s inbuilt capacity for swindling and fraud. Who says Trump isn’t a builder? Look on his works, ye mighty, and shrug. Zinke isn’t merely destroying old works: he’s building his own. It takes millions of years to make a canyon. Ryan Zinke can fill it in a term. Now, isn’t that power?