Short casts: Zinke rides in, clean water takes a hit, salmon-flavored Iditarod

Photo NBC News

New U.S. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke literally rode to work on horseback today, where he was greeted by Interior staffers for his first day on the job. Zinke is now charged with managing about 500 million acres of public lands all across the country, and the best news of the day came from an e-mail he sent to all 70,000 employees within the Department of Interior. A quick exerpt:

“I have absolutely and unequivocally opposed any attempts to transfer, sell, or privatize our public lands, and serving as their top steward is not a job I take lightly. I approach this job in the same way that Boy Scouts taught me so long ago: leave the campsite in better condition than I found it.”

This is music to the ears of every sportsman and woman in America who understands that good fishing and hunting starts witih ample access to quality habitat. And that’s what America’s public lands provide—opportunity. Here’s to Secretary Zinke and his continued opposition to the sale and transfer of public lands.

While Zinke’s position on public lands is great news, President Trump provided the unfortunate balance in the news cycle this week when he signed an order that will eventually rescind the Clean Water Rule that protects headwater streams and wetlands from unregulated development. These waters are the sources of our country’s great rivers and home to some great backcountry fishing. TU’s President and CEO Chris Wood promised a sustained opposition to this rule.

And finally, the annual Alaska Iditarod has a distinctly salmon flavor this year. Musher Monica Zappa, about to embark on her fourth race, talked to supporters in Soldotna at a send-off party. Zappa is a commercial salmon fisher and feeds her sled dogs about two tons of salmon every year, so she literally has a dog in the fight for the effort to pass important fish habitat legislation in Alaska. Presently, the Alaska Legislature is working to update a state law that protects salmon habitat, a move supported by commercial and recreational anglers that see the need to protect, in perpetuity, Alaska’s most important renewable resource.

Good luck to Zappa and her salmon-loving dogs. And let’s hope the state legislature moves forward with the effort to protect fish habitat in the Last Frontier.

— Chris Hunt

By Chris Hunt.