U.S. Department of the Interior

The Interior Department has announced it’s temporarily waiving entrance fees for recreation areas, national monuments and national parks. Secretary David Bernhardt said he wanted to make it easier for people to recreate on public lands.

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After congressional Democrats voted this week to give one of their own the power to subpoena the Trump administration, U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt dismissed the move as a “witch hunt.”

A side-by-side image shows glacial differences between 1938 and 2019 at Glacier National Park in Montana.
USGS

President Donald Trump unveiled his budget proposal Monday, and a significant cut to the Department of Interior is on the table.

The Trump administration wants to cut funding for all but one agency within the Interior, for a 16% overall reduction.

Updated 2:24 p.m. MST 2/6/2020

In the face of ongoing litigation from tribes and conservation groups, the Trump administration has finalized plans to expand drilling, mining and grazing across southern Utah — including within the former bounds of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. 

Bear stands on log with a cub.
Frank van Manen / U.S. Geological Survey

In the lower 48 states, grizzly bears used to roam across much of the West, but now, they’re confined to areas mostly in Montana and Wyoming. They’re considered endangered.

The U.S. government has recently agreed to review their endangered status, due to a controversial lawsuit which ultimately aims to build a plan to eventually bring grizzly bears to more places, including the Sierra Nevada.

The Interior Department has been trying to tackle a growing backlog of public records requests under the Trump administration, and now the agency is creating a new legal team to help with the effort. 

Flaring natural gas (largely methane) at a well site in North Dakota in 2014. The Bureau of Land Management relaxed rules regulating flared, leaked and vented methane from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands.
Jeffrey Peischl / CIRES

Update, Jan. 15 10:11 a.m.: The Department of Interior has provided a statement, which is now included in this story.

The Trump Administration’s Interior Department has largely ignored public comment on proposed rule changes, according to an analysis from the Center for Western Priorities.

The conservation advocacy group looked at ten proposals from Interior, including the easing of offshore drilling regulations and Endangered Species Act protections. What it found was that while more than 95% of public comments were opposed to the changes, the agency still moved forward on most of them.

Since the 1960s, the National Park Service has partnered with nonprofit organizations to provide environmental education services to the public. But a recent audit from the U.S. Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General found that some of these Residential Environmental Learning Centers have strayed from their original mission .

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, an International Biosphere Reserve along the U.S.-Mexico border, where some park rangers from around the West have been deployed to boost law enforcement.
National Park Service

The Trump Administration is continuing to deploy park rangers at the U.S.-Mexico border to help with enforcement. And while national parks and other public lands in the West are feeling the effects, it’s unclear just how much.

The Interior Department’s chief watchdog updated Congress Wednesday on the agency’s efforts to curb a long-term pattern of sexual harassment. 

A congressional watchdog agency has decided that the Interior Department broke the law by using entrance fees to keep national parks open during the government shutdown this past winter. 

Roy Anderson / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Federal officials have announced changes to the Endangered Species Act, which could have big impacts on wildlife and habitat throughout our region.

Washington State Department of Natural Resources / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing 11,000 miles of fuel breaks throughout our region to help combat the spread of wildfires.

Top politicians are in Vail, Colorado, this week for the annual meeting of the Western Governors Association.

Bureau of Land Management

The Department of the Interior is continuing its push to move some agency headquarters out West by asking Congress to fund the initiative.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is asking Congress for $10.5 million in the next fiscal year for the relocation efforts. The department says it plans to choose a new western location for the Bureau of Land Management headquarters later this year. It has also signaled that it may move the U.S. Geological Survey headquarters to the Denver area.