Bernhardt Could Continue—or Even Increase—Damage Done to DOI in the Trump Era

Statement by Adam Markham, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Feb 4, 2019

WASHINGTON (February 4, 2019)—President Donald Trump today announced he will nominate David Bernhardt as the next secretary of the Interior, replacing scandal-tarred Ryan Zinke. Bernhardt’s nomination signals the president’s clear intention to offer more of the same and spurn the opportunity to reverse the damage done to the Department of the Interior (DOI) under Zinke, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Adam Markham, Deputy Director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

“So far in the Trump era, political appointees at the Department of the Interior have relentlessly attacked science, undermined the agency’s mission of conservation and responsible management of our public lands, and instead focused entirely on making it easier for oil, coal, and gas companies to expand their drilling and mining operations, often at the expense of public health. This siege on science has done serious damage to the Department and its mission. David Bernhardt, as Secretary Zinke’s top deputy, had a hand in many of Secretary Zinke’s violations of the mission of the department—and many of these actions came straight off the wish list of industries Bernhardt used to work for as a lobbyist.  Bernhardt’s nomination is a signal that this administration has no intention of turning the department around, and he can be expected to continue to pursue the policy of 'energy dominance' at all costs. All this at the expense of Interior’s role as steward of the United States’ natural and cultural resources for future generations.

“Under Zinke, the Department ignored science, public health, Native American communities, and its obligation to protect America’s lands, endangered species, and ecosystems. As the Senate considers Bernhardt’s nomination, they must demand the nominee reverses the destructive legacy of Secretary Zinke, question him on his ties to drilling and mining interests and challenge him to provide a new direction. And once a new secretary is in place, Congress must use its powers of oversight to make sure we don’t see the kinds of mismanagement, scandals and violations of the public interest that have been so sadly commonplace.

“If confirmed, David Bernhardt needs to be on notice that the scientific community and the public will be closely watching his activities. We will not accept more of the same.”

In December, UCS released a report on Zinke’s tenure at DOI, “Science Under Siege at the Department of the Interior.”