Montana Public Radio

U.S. Department of Interior

Bull elk
(PD)

This  story was updated May 22, 2018 at 6:00 pm.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is making a push to open up more federal land for people who hunt and fish. On Monday, he announced plans to expand or create new hunting and fishing opportunities on 30 National Wildlife Refuges, including two in Montana.

Trump Proposes Easing Oil, Gas Leasing Restrictions In West

May 2, 2018

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration is proposing to ease restrictions on oil and gas leasing and other activities across a huge swath of the American West that were enacted to protect a declining bird species.

Interior Department officials on Wednesday released a draft of their proposed changes to conservation plans for the greater sage grouse in seven states.

Sage grouse.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Region (PD)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Environmental groups sued the Trump administration on Monday for selling oil and gas leases on huge swaths of Western public lands while allegedly ignoring policies meant to protect an imperiled bird.

Attorneys for Western Watersheds Project and Center for Biological Diversity asked a federal judge in Idaho to reverse lease sales totaling 475 square miles (1,230 square kilometers) in Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada.

Watchdog: Zinke Charter Flight Approved Without Full Info

Apr 16, 2018
Former Interior secretary and Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke.
Nicky Ouellet / Montana Public Radio

WASHINGTON (AP) — A $12,000 charter flight by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was reviewed and approved by department ethics officials without complete information, because staffers who helped schedule the trip did not provide sufficient details, an internal watchdog said Monday.

Yellowstone Park's east entrance.
Diane Renkin-NPS (PD)

The Interior Department is increasing fees at 17 popular national parks, including Glacier and Yellowstone, to $35 per vehicle, backing down from an earlier plan that would have forced visitors to pay $70 per vehicle.

Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story Kathleen Sgamma was quoted as saying reducing royalty rates increases revenue for industry and the federal government.  Her point was in fact that reducing regulatory barriers achieves this goal.

On Wednesday, an Interior Department advisory panel will propose changing how the government receives royalties from coal dug up on federal lands. But some critics are calling foul as panel members either come from the energy industry or energy-producing states.


Oil well.
(PD)

A U.S. District Court judge Thursday ordered the reinstatement of an oil and gas industry regulation that aims to lower harmful methane emissions. Environmental groups say it’s a win for states including Montana.

Turmoil Shakes Up Agency In Charge Of Vast US Lands

Feb 20, 2018
Former Interior secretary and Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke.
Nicky Ouellet / Montana Public Radio

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A year of upheaval at the U.S. Interior Department has seen dozens of senior staff members reassigned and key leadership positions left unfilled, rules considered burdensome to industry shelved, and a sweeping reorganization proposed for its 70,000 employees.

The evolving status quo at the agency responsible for more than 780,000 square miles (2 million square kilometers) of public lands, mostly in the American West, has led to praise from energy and mining companies and Republicans, who welcomed the departure from perceived heavy-handed regulation under President Barack Obama.

Yellowstone Park's east entrance.
Diane Renkin-NPS (PD)

Visitors to Yellowstone National Park can now purchase entrance passes online instead of in person. Normally, visitors to the nation’s oldest national park had to pony up cash or a credit card to a ranger if they wanted to get in.

A Coal Mine in the Powder River basin.
U.S. Geological Survey

We're getting perspective now on last week's news that the U.S. Interior Department said it had approved a major coal mine expansion in Montana. It caused the stock of the mining company involved to temporarily spike.

Six days later, Interior rescinded its statement, saying no expansion was approved, and the original approval statement was the result of “internal miscommunication.”

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