Friday morning two U.S. Cabinet members visited Boise: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
In a conference room high about the Boise State University football stadium, Secretaries Perdue and Zinke spoke about land management.
They were introduced by Celia Gould, Idaho's Director of Agriculture, who observed that the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture cover a lot of ground in the state. "This is possibly the first time in Idaho's history," she quipped, "that we have had the two largest land-owners in the state."
Secretary Perdue spoke about his Agriculture Department working with the Interior Department on their shared responsibility of stewardship, but he also argued for regulatory relief.
Secretary Zinke started his comments with this applause line: "Up front, I'm not an advocate for sale or transfer of public land." But Zinke went on to say his Department needed to address lost revenue opportunities by leasing lands for offshore drilling. He also wanted to restore an erosion of trust between private landowners and the federal government, saying "We're not well-liked in a lot of places in the West."
Zinke shared internal surveys that showed Department of Interior employees had a higher level of worker dissatisfaction than most other bureaus. To solve the problem, he said, he'll shift staffing and resources away from the national and regional centers of his department to local agencies, or what he called "the front lines."
The Interior Secretary also signaled the need for infrastructure spending, an early promise of the Trump Administration. "Just in the (National) Park Service (alone)," explained Zinke,"we are about $11.5 billion behind on delayed maintenance and repairs." Half of that, Zinke said, was needed for fixing the roads.
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