Ryan Zinke Refuses to ‘Weaponize’ Public Lands During Government Shutdown, Touts Efforts to Keep Parks Open

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke spoke to Breitbart News Sunday on SiriusXM and praised his department’s efforts to keep America’s public lands open during the “government shutdown.”

During the last shutdown, in 2013, the Obama administration increased the pressure on the Republicans they blamed for the shutdown by closing the most visible of government services, including parks and monuments. That administration went as far as to rope off the open-air World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, denying octogenarian vets on “honor flights” the opportunity to visit the monument erected in their honor.

Breitbart News Deputy Political Editor Amanda House asked Zinke to compare that experience to this shutdown, where he has been able to keep open a comparatively much larger amount of public land. Zinke made headlines Saturday for welcoming visitors to keep the Washington World War II Memorial open.

“I can’t think of a [bigger] difference [than] in how we view our public lands. Our public lands and monuments are the people’s and not the government’s,” Zinke told House, directly comparing the Trump administration’s approach to earlier policies. “And so we’ve given a directive to, wherever possible, make sure our public lands remain open. … Where we can, we’ve opened up our parks.”

Zinke claimed he wanted to avoid politicizing the parks and other public lands. “We’re blessed with our park system, BLM [Bureau of Land Management lands] and great public lands and treasures. … To weaponize those lands for a political purpose, I think, quite frankly, is unamerican,” he told House.

“We’re even negotiating with New York on the Statue of Liberty,” Zinke added about the famous landmark now slated to reopen Monday.

Still, Zinke reigned in his enthusiasm to emphasize the hardship his employees might face if the shutdown continues. “[The Department of the] Interior has a really noble mission: being the stewards of our greatest treasures,” Zinke said. “These are middle-class American families that work hard, that love our country, and they have mortgages. … So to use our personnel as — somehow — a bargaining chip for political purposes, quite frankly, is disgraceful.”

Breitbart News Sunday airs Sunday on SiriusXM’s Patriot channel 125 from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Eastern (4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Pacific).

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