KTVA: Interior Secretary Zinke focuses on energy, parks during Alaska visit

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is in Alaska for his first visit to the state since his confirmation to the position in March.

His first public appearance included a ride to the Alaska Veteran’s Memorial on the George Parks Highway with the Alaska Vets Motorcycle Club for their 29th annual Memorial Run.

“I think it’s important on Memorial Day to recognize why we fight,” Zinke said. “There’s a kindred spirit among brothers and sisters who have fought and it’s great to be in Alaska with them.”

He arrived in Alaska on Saturday and flew to the North Slope with Senator Lisa Murkowski. She called Zinke Alaska’s “unofficial landlord” because 60 percent of the state is federal land.

Murkowski said their trip highlighted the importance of responsible oil and gas development, something Zinke said he’d like to see more of.

“If you look at 2008, the Department of Interior made about $18 billion in offshore, last year was $2.6 billion. So we lost $15.5 billion a year on revenue,” Zinke explained.

Senator Murkowski said access is an issue that’s critical for Alaska. She said she hoped the trip showed Zinke how long it’s taken to move forward in the National Petroleum Reserve.

“I think it was also important for him to realize we’re accessing a resource in an environment that’s also a fragile ecosystem, that we have to respect that land and the environmental stewardship we adhere to,” Murkowski said.

Zinke also met with Gov. Bill Walker and told him, “We’ll fill a pipe.” Walker said those are words he likes to hear.

“He understands the opportunity we have for resource development. I hope that’s what he takes away from Alaska, that we have more minerals than any other state and we want to develop those,” Walker said.

Zinc grew up in Whitefish, Montana, about an hour’s drive from Glacier National Park. He also said improving park infrastructure is a top priority.

“We had 330 million people come through our parks last year and I want to make sure the infrastructure so the experience that I grew up in in Glacier is promulgated into the future and that the experience is protected.”

Zinke’s schedule in Alaska includes visiting Denali National Park on Monday.

On Tuesday he’ll meet with Alaska Native veterans and the Alaska Federation of Natives in Anchorage. His trip wraps up Wednesday with an appearance at the Alaska Oil and Gas Association’s annual conference and a hike in Arctic Valley to the Cold War-era Nike Site Summit.

By:  Heather Hintze
Source: KTVA