- - Monday, May 1, 2017

The Department of the Interior is the steward and manager of America’s natural resources, which in addition to national parks and grazing lands also includes oil, gas, clean coal, hydro, solar and other renewable energy sources.

Being a good steward of our land and resources does not mean locking it up. As America’s conservationist president, Theodore Roosevelt, wrote, “Conservation means development as much as it does protection.”

Like Theodore Roosevelt, President Trump believes that responsible development of natural resources, conservation stewardship, and outdoor recreation on public lands benefit all Americans. Balancing those priorities is the job of the Interior.

The department oversees 1.7 billion offshore acres of Outer Continental Shelf and 700 million onshore acres of mineral estate. These lands produce 21 percent of the nation’s energy, including 45 percent of coal, 43 percent of solar capacity, 23 percent of oil, 15 percent of natural gas, 15 percent of hydropower, and 57 percent of the nation’s installed geothermal capacity. As a result, Interior generates more revenue for the federal government than any agency other than the IRS.

While not all public lands are appropriate for energy development, many provide the perfect opportunity to balance energy, conservation and outdoor recreation priorities. Thanks to new innovations in science and technology, developing our resources and conserving the environment are not mutually exclusive. Interior leads the way in showing that responsible energy development and conservation stewardship are possible.

There is no debate that the federal government should regulate energy production within its borders and that the taxpayer should get fair value for the resources extracted. But when regulation crushes American innovation and becomes a tool of political advocacy rather than public interest, we must change course.

Between 2008 and 2016, annual energy and mineral revenue from federal and tribal lands decreased by about $17 billion. Offshore energy revenues — where funding for much land conservation and historic preservation originates — fell by 84 percent over the same period. This trend stops now.

In March, President Trump issued an executive order launching America towards energy independence and economic growth. I followed the president’s leadership by ending the moratorium on federal coal leases, eliminating job-crushing energy regulations, and re-establishing a Royalty Policy Committee that gives local, tribal, federal and non-federal stakeholders a seat at the table to discuss energy development on public lands.

These actions have restored balanced access to federal lands for employers to add thousands of jobs and generate billions in revenue for the American taxpayer. And, coupled with President Trump’s executive orders to combat bad regulations and streamline government bureaucracy, these actions are already providing relief to hardworking families and jumpstarting the economy.

Developing American energy and achieving American energy independence have three major benefits to the environment, economy and national security:

First, it’s better for the environment that the U.S. produces energy. We can responsibly develop our energy resources and return the land to equal or better quality than it was before extraction. I’ve spent a lot of time as a Navy SEAL in the Middle East, and I can tell you with 100 percent certainty it is better to develop our energy here under reasonable regulations rather than have it produced overseas under little or no regulations.

Second, energy production is a boon to the economy, supporting more than 9.8 million jobs and supplying affordable power for homes, hospitals, manufacturing and transportation. But for too many local communities, energy on public lands has been more of a missed opportunity and has failed to include local consultation and partnership.

And lastly, achieving American energy independence will strengthen our national security by reducing our reliance on foreign oil and allowing us to assist our allies with their energy needs. As a military commander, I saw how the power of the American economy and American energy defeated our adversaries around the world. Under President Trump’s leadership, we will once again develop our resources and use them as a diplomatic force to keep prices low and Americans safe.

Together with local, state and tribal partners, we will power the American economy with American energy. We will create the business conditions to put people back to work on the rigs in the Gulf, in the oil fields of the West, and in the coal mines like those on great Crow Nation’s lands. In the Trump administration, all-of-the-above means all-of-the-above, and economic opportunity will once again be available to those who have been left behind and forgotten by the policies of the past.

Former Montana Rep. Ryan K. Zinke was sworn in as 52nd Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior on March 1, 2017. A fifth-generation Montanan, Mr. Zinke is the first U.S. Navy SEAL officer to serve as a cabinet secretary.

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