Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Chief Conservation Officer Blake Henning, Government Affairs Director Mark Lambrecht and Board Member Mark Baker participated in a conservation round table discussion with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt and more than 30 other conservation/sportsmen organizations at Interior headquarters in Washington D.C. on May 16.
Secretary Zinke discussed the department’s focus on domestic energy development in 2017 and its plans to address departmental reorganization, infrastructure issues in national parks and conservation on federal public lands going forward.
The Secretary discussed his plan to establish 13 regional offices throughout the country and transferring significant decision-making and funding authority to them.
Zinke stated the primary focus of departmental reorganization is to create greater efficiency in recreation and resource management, environmental planning and permitting, and protection of wildlife corridors.
The department’s conservation focus will include targeted acquisitions, easements and resources to protect corridors and also certain moratoriums and withdrawals on mineral leases within corridor properties.
Henning asked the Secretary if the Bureau of Land Management would retain significant influence at headquarters if its authority was distributed among the regions. The Secretary compared the proposed reorganization to the structure of the Department of Defense, where the Navy, Army or other entities have planning and operational authority around the globe, while certain decisions are retained at the Pentagon. Zinke stated, “Some BLM authorities will be retained in D.C. if there are decisions of national consequence.”
Several other key issues were discussed in the meeting, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund—to which the Secretary expressed his support for permanent reauthorization; reliance on scientific information for identification and protection of wildlife corridors; the need for funding to restore western rangelands and the importance of wild horse and burro management.
After the round table meeting, RMEF joined other sportsmen organizations and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) officials in a discussion on implementation of Secretarial Order 3362 to improve habitat quality in western big-game winter range and migration corridors. USFWS plans to contact state wildlife agencies to ask them to identify their top three to five migration corridors, potential threats to their conditions and opportunities to improve them. Organizations like RMEF will be asked to provide technical assistance to the states and the Interior Department in these areas and in identifying potential easements, acquisitions and federal budget requests to implement corridor conservation plans.