USA Today the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources conducted a hearing to consider the nomination of Montana Representative Ryan Zinke to be the new Secretary of the Interior. I watched a portion of it and two items caught my attention.
Mr. Zinke said in no uncertain terms that he was against turning over federal land to states or other organizations. In fact it has been reported that he resigned from the Republican National Committee this summer when they insisted on making land divestiture a part of their platform.
The other issue was the Chimney Tops 2 Fire that in November burned from Great Smoky Mountains National Park into Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We captured this 3-minute portion of the hearing in the video above. The fire killed 14 people and destroyed 2,013 homes and 53 commercial structures. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander wanted assurance from Mr. Zinke that he would commit to paying close attention to a scheduled review of the incident so that we can see if there are any lessons to be learned for the future. Mr. Zinke said, Senator, I will absolutely commit to that.
Mr. Alexander also made a pitch to increase the funding for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, arguing that the agreement when the land bought by the people and given to the federal government stipulated that entrance fees could not be charged. He said Yellowstone NP has half as many visitors as Smoky MNP but twice the budget. The Senator did not mention that Yellowstone is almost four times as large, 522,427 acres vs. 2,219,791 acres
After the hearing concludes a video recording of the entire event will be available at the Committees website.
For the most current information about the Chimney Tops 2 Fire at Gatlinburg, see our articles tagged Chimney 2 Fire.