Nine days after taking office, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke made his first official trip from Washington, D.C., to a familiar place: Glacier National Park in Montana, the Flathead Beacon reported.
The Whitefish native, tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the agency that oversees 500 million acres of federal public lands, met with National Park Service employees on Friday (March 10) to talk about his hopes and goals for the next four years. Chief among those priorities is a “21st century reorganization” of the Department of Interior.
“We need to be bold and look at what the Department of Interior will be 100 years from now,” he said.
During his visit on Friday, Zinke met with Glacier Park Superintendent Jeff Mow to discuss the backlog of maintenance within the park. According to Zinke, there is $12 billion worth of deferred maintenance within the park system, including $125 million in Glacier Park. Much of that is related to roads and bridges. Among the infrastructure priorities within Glacier National Park is the reopening of the Inside North Fork Road, part of which was washed out and never repaired a few years ago.
Zinke said that he and the president want to tackle the National Park Service’s infrastructure needs to ensure that it can handle a growing number of visitors. In 2016, more than 330 million people visited a national park, up 7.7% from the previous year.
“The president supports the fact that our parks are the face of the Department of the Interior,” Zinke said. “We want to make sure the visitor experience is world-class.”
Other goals of Zinke’s proposed reorganization — which he said he plans to roll out in the next six to eight months — include rebuilding relations with land users and listening more to local land managers.
“If you don’t know the difference between the Potomac, the Yellowstone or the Middle Fork, you probably shouldn’t be making decisions that impact those places,” he said. “I’m going to push as much authority as I can back to the front lines.”
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