There’s No Place Like Home: Sun Valley, Idaho

By Emily Slike

Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 10.24.27 AMSun Valley’s small town vibe mixed with world class ski resort amenities makes it a unique place in Idaho.  It is a place to live for the lifestyle and not the jobs, and it is a place that is populated by many transplants, all with one thing in common—a love for the opportunities offered by the public lands surrounding the valley. This commonality was a part of my childhood where I spent summers trying new outdoor activities at camp, trying not to crash as I biked Baldy, our beloved ski mountain for the first time, and where I spent winters skiing and snowboarding with friends. It is a place where you grow up with the mountains at your back door. Wherever you look and wherever you are, there is some new trail to explore and find yourself connected to the land that surrounds you.

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But this was not something that I fully appreciated until I left the valley. For my first five years out of high school, I moved to different cities of all shapes and sizes, always finding myself missing home and what it had to offer. Whenever I had the opportunity, I would travel home. While re-connecting with friends and family, I would also take any opportunity to go adventuring around the valley’s mountains, feeling the connectedness to the outdoors that I missed.

I know that I will likely not return to Sun Valley for an extended time again, but I know that whenever I need it, the valley will be there for me. My love of public lands stemmed from where I grew up, and I hope that by continuing to protect public lands more generations will be able to find the importance of preservation, adventure, and home.


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Public Lands Are Your Lands

By Benjamin Almy

Alone atop a mountain or leaning into the current of a stream, immersed in the beauty and connected to the energy of our environment, I find my glaring insignificance calming. While the conveniences of contemporary life certainly allow for expediency, they cannot replicate the invigorating and profound effect of exposure to nature’s power and grandeur.

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We are blessed in this country with endless opportunities to access incredible protected landscapes. This is not a mutual experience throughout the world. We are fortunate to have had past leaders who recognized this prodigious resource and acted to protect it, preserve it, and keep it accessible to the public. It was active advocacy for recognition and classification of public lands that imparted to us the right to use and enjoy these designated pristine environments. Provided to us as birthright, it’s a pretty sweet deal.

I’ve spent countless days enjoying our public lands with skis, a bike, or a fishing rod, and I cherish those experiences. In fact, my favorite memories are dominated by days spent reveling in these protected parcels of our nation. This is a resource that is integral in my life and has provided endless fascination and entertainment. The innate value of our public lands provides an intangible asset which, while unquantifiable, is fundamental in our cultural character. Because it is difficult to valuate a healthy watershed or an ecosystem where flora and fauna thrive, the benefit of its protection is often hidden from those without access or exposure. However, as a regular beneficiary of these lands, I firmly believe these resources are critical to our national character.Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 8.06.28 AM

The vast variety of uses public lands accommodate furnish a foundational aspect for a diverse and significant portion of our population. For me, it’s often a personal replenishing escape and an opportunity to pursue recreational passions. But, as avowed by Guthrie, my recreational use of our public lands is no more and no less important than the raft guide bumping boats, the cattle rancher grazing his livelihood, or the energy developer seeking to utilize potential resources. These lands are for all Americans, and they must be managed and protected to continue to accommodate all their shareholders.

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As life advances, my time to enjoy our public lands has decreased, but my appreciation for them only deepens. Though it is difficult to adequately articulate the value which exists in these protected lands, those of us who are fortunate enough to have felt a line tighten on a blue ribbon stream or to have laced a bottomless backcountry turn, know that, as a society, we would be remised to squander the opportunity to provide those experiences for future generations. These lands must continue to be protected and effectively managed.


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Across the Bob

By Jonah Brown


 “Why did they make such an insane journey? Another wonder…” – David James Duncan/My Story as Told by Water

It is little wonder that seven of us were laying in the grass after 30 miles and nearly eight hours of running. We found ourselves in the literal center of the most primitive area in the Lower 48. Not lost, but wondering whether the “bonus” side-trip up the 9,200-foot Scapegoat Mountain was a wise decision. Half of our group had opted to continue around the peculiar summit and were now miles ahead of us. We wondered how much later in the evening we would arrive at our destination, and whether there would be any scraps of food left for us.

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As we contemplated the 20 miles still ahead, I thought about why we felt compelled to make the climb. It didn’t take long to understand that the simplicity of experiencing a wild place unknown to us was reason enough. The place is surreal. We had thrust ourselves into a paradox of contentment and pain. Understanding the beauty and importance of where we were, yet being tested by the elements that we sought to navigate.

This story is about a protected place in Montana that perpetually remains untrammeled in its pristine condition. For the past 4 years, an unassuming, unlikely group of “runners” from Missoula have made a pilgrimage to this place for the simple purpose of traversing 50 miles in a day.


“There could be no better place to learn than the Montana of my youth. It was a world with dew still on it. More touched by wonder and possibility than any I have since known.”Norman Maclean/A River Runs Through It

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (“The Bob”) consists of three contiguous wilderness areas: The Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Great Bear. The Bob is located in northwestern Montana and is split down the center by 200 miles of the Continental Divide. Together, the three wilderness areas make up more than 1.5 million acres of roadless public land.

The Bob is an immense place, sparsely populated by the fisherman, the backpacker, the hunter, and the grizzly bear. Since its wilderness designation in 1964 by the United States Congress, the Bob has remained a truly wild place—as any who have entered its borders can attest. The closest thing to civilization within the Bob are a few outfitter camps and backcountry cabins separated by miles of rugged terrain. The Bob, like all other wilderness areas, is a roadless area, closed to motorized vehicles. The only way to access its depths is to navigate aspects of the 1,700 miles of trail either oScreen Shot 2017-04-04 at 11.15.01 AMn foot or horseback as a short-term visitor.

The Run Across the Bob (“RATBOB”), as defined by its creator—my Dad—is “an annual Montana-style adventure run, roughly 50 miles in length, that enters the Bob from east, crosses the Continental Divide, exits somewhere on the west, and never follows the same route twice.”

RATBOB 2016 required navigating what typically is a 5 to 6 day backpacking trip in a single day. The route my Dad conceived for 2016 began at the Straight Creek trailhead, west of Augusta, Montana, and generally headed south, finishing at the North Fork of the Blackfoot trailhead near Ovando, Montana—where we would camp and celebrate with copious amounts of pasta and beer. The base route was roughly 43 miles, with an optional seven-mile scramble to the summit of Scapegoat Mountain.

2016 was the fourth edition of RATBOB, and my first experience with it. I had grown up at the margins of the Bob, but never truly appreciated its importance until I joined a ragtag collection of individuals, embarked beyond cellphone service and roads, and into the depths of the unknown.

MILE 0 – 15

“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed . . . we simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.” – Wallace Stegner/The Sound of Mountain Water

We set off from Missoula for the Rocky Mountain Front and the Benchmark trailhead on a sweltering late July afternoon in a handful of cars full of lawyers, doctors, medical residents, physical therapists, students, a cattle rancher, and everything in between. Some were RATBOB veterans. They shared stories of previous RATBOB experiences as we rumbled along the southern edge of the Bob, over Rogers Pass, and into Augusta. After eating every last piece of fried chicken at the Buckhorn Bar, our convoy turned toward the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and followed a dirt road to the Range’s abrupt edge. We reached Benchmark and the extent of vehicle allowance, where we would camp for the night. The rest of our journey would be on foot.

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This route would not have been possible if it weren’t for public lands. I’m not sure I quite grasped that fact until we set off at sunrise the following morning. Every footstep we were to take was protected—uninterrupted by fences, homes, buildings, or roads. We felt alone as we trotted along at a modest pace early that morning. As we made our way along the buffed out single-track, previously felt only by hoofs and hiking boots, the place was silent. A world with dew still on it. The first ten miles consisted of an old burn area, consumed by fires in the 1980s that had been left to devour every conifer in reach. We made our way over Elbow Pass, and down to our first of many creek crossings, where we encountered the only other human presence we would see that day.

“Did you say run?” The lone horseman asked, first questioning his hearing and then our sanity, as he looked at our running packs and was told by Jeff Rome where we were going. “So are ya’ll a part of some running club?” he then inquired.

“Nope. Just a bunch of folks out here enjoying the place,” Jeff answered. Runners tend to love when people ask questions like this. Ultrarunners love it even more when people question their sanity. I imagined this was an encounter that would be quoted over and over after the trip. I was right.

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MILE 15-30

“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” – Kurt Vonnegut/Slaughterhouse Five

We left our new friend and continued southeast toward the Green Fork cabin, where we would then turn south toward Scapegoat Mountain and the Continental Divide. At mile 20 or so, we reached a fork in the trail and the decision whether to climb the extra couple-thousand feet and tack on seven bonus miles. Most had decided before we left camp whether they were going up or not, but a few changed their minds as we stood in the shadow of the peak. The day was hot and the extra climb was going to be grueling—the trail upward was eventually going to end and it would be a scramble over boulders and scree fields to the summit, and back to where we were currently standing. We remained for about five minutes at the fork while those wavering one way or another made up their minds. Our group eventually divided in half and set off in respective directions.

The climb was indeed grueling. The decision to go up, I would soon learn was going to be the highlight and low point of the run. We followed the primitive climbers trail which eventually ended, spilling out upon what seemed to be the path of least resistance, looking up to the summit occasionally for insurance.

After about an hour of hiking with hands on thighs, we reached the top, finding a bighorn sheep skull and 360 degree views of the wilderness. We were now deep in the center of the wild place and couldn’t see a road in any direction. This was undoubtedly the most remote place I had ever been. But, I was spent. I sat at the summit and admired the immaculate mountains and valleys in every direction, and then laid down for my first nap of the day.

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I awoke five minutes later exhausted and hungry. At this point, I recognized my one significant logistical mistake and that was over-thinking hydration, and under-thinking food. The Bob is filled with clean mountain streams that you can drink from without filtration, which I took full advantage of. However, the only food I chose to pack was 20 gels and some beef jerky. I had eaten six gels and was nauseous at the thought of choking down another. It didn’t help to see others around me had packed grilled cheese sandwiches,Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 11.16.03 AM chips, and sweet potatoes. I couldn’t bear to look at the gourmet cuisine, knowing what I was stuck with. I ate some peach-O’s my Dad generously offered and got ready for the descent back down to finish up our detour.

I had no legs left during the descent. I’ve always enjoyed running downhill but this was different. My quads screamed and I worried about rolling an ankle on a loose rock. I quickly fell to the back of the pack, pulling my camera out to take some pictures so others wouldn’t question if I was okay. Despite the pain, the descent inevitably took half as long as the climb. We reached the fork where we would merge onto the trail that the other group had taken a few hours earlier. Realizing they were now probably getting close to the end, gave me a sense of deflation knowing that we still had half of the run to finish. It was hot now. Well over 80 degrees and we wandered off the side of the trail to a small lake where each of us jumped in fully clothed with the hope of a lasting cool as we continued. This brought me back to life. For a short time, anyway.

We had a low pass to climb over before entering Halfmoon Park—location of the deepest unexplored cave on earth. It was here that I noticed I wasn’t the only person struggling. People were starting to slow. Until this point, I had intentionally been running toward the back, along with a few others, to act as a kind of “sweeper,” ensuring people didn’t get left behind. But now I was concerned whether I was one of the people that others should be concerned about getting dropped and attacked by a bear.

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The run is supposed to be separated into groups of fifteen in order to comply with wilderness regulations, but inevitably that system broke down. The groups eventually disbanded into smaller parties of six or seven as the miles rolled on. There were now seven of us at the back and we were moving slowly. We stopped atop a grassy rise in Halfmoon Park and laid down to rest. My second nap of the day.

MILE 30-50

“Westward always, into the sun…” – Edward Abbey/The Fool’s Progress

I got up with stiff legs after what was probably too long of a rest and began running again, more slowly this time. I occasionally slowed to a walk to inspect the wildflowers. I drank out of each passing stream, cascading down from the Continental Divide, working together to build the headwaters of the Dearborn River. My legs slowly started to find momentum and I eventually was running alone, which was not advisable. I reached the top of the final pass and looked out over the west side of the Divide. The group that was ahead of me was waiting there and we stopped while those at the end caught up. My Dad made his way up shortly behind and advised that he would take care of sweeping, shooing the rest of us on ahead. I obliged as I felt I should try to keep moving as efficiently as possible for the last twenty miles.

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Thinking back, the final miles are blurry. However, I recall following an impeccable trail as the afternoon faded away. I was again able to pick my head up and look around, enjoying the place and taking in the remote beauty of where we were.

As the sun began to set, I stopped to fill up my water bottle at the last drinkable water source—six miles from the trailhead. The group I was now with, eager to be done, continued on along the North Fork of the Blackfoot. I was alone again. It was getting dark fast and I slowed to a walk to better enjoy the sunset. I switched on my headlamp, pulled out my bear spray and called out to the bears as I rounded every corner. I passed a Missoula friend who had driven up to camp and had hiked in from the end trailhead. He offered me some Jelly Beans and beef jerky, which I gladly gobbled down.

These final miles of trail are the only ones I had previously been on and I knew when I was getting close to the trailhead. As the light from my headlamp shown over the final rise, I heard cheering from down below. A bizarre sound after a day of silence. I reached the campground well after 10:00p.m., saw familiar faces and was offered high fives and a beer.

I sat down in a chair and recounted the day with those who had finished before me, those who drove to the North Fork trailhead and ran in a short way, and those who came to drive the shuttle vans or help make dinner. More headlamps made their way down into camp, and shortly before midnight, my Dad came through. The mastermind, ensuring at every step that his idea turned out flawlessly.


“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.” – Edward Abbey/Desert Solitaire

When we returned to Missoula, I took comfort in knowing that the Bob would be there again next year, uninterrupted and unchanged. I found myself months later still thinking about the depths of the Bob. As the memories of running began to fade away with time, the details of what we found along the way remained clear. This place is ours to explore and navigate as visitors—something that is easy to take for granted. RATBOB is an example of people from all walks of life coming together for the common purpose of being there. The simplicity of moving across the land on foot or horseback has become a rallying point for all who enter the Bob.

I have never met anyone who told me they wished the Bob wasn’t there. And in the midst of a land transfer movement that dominates the news, the Bob should serve as a prime example of what happens when we protect our public lands. This place belongs to every American, controlled by its borders, yet uncontrollable within. The peace of mind that we have knowing RATBOB will happen again in 2017 is important, and that kind of satisfaction should be felt for all public lands.

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The Power of Place: Bryce Canyon National Park

By Sarah Danno

The feeling that overcomes me when I look over Bryce Canyon National Park’s rim is difficult to describe. It’s a strange mixture of content and complete elation—we’ve all felt it. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m on a run and begin descending down a mountain trail at the perfect grade. It’s the feeling I get when I’ve been far away from home, and on my return flight I open my window shade to see the familiar mountains I’ve missed. I’ve come to recognize this feeling as a sense of belonging, a sense of connection to place.

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Inspiration Point, Bryce Canyon National Park

Your connection to a landscape can change dramatically. Sometimes all you need is a bit of time, or distance, away from somewhere to really appreciate it. I lived in Bryce Canyon National Park for four formative years. My family moved there as I was entering the second grade. My parents were national park rangers, a career which requires an adventurous spirit. Following suit, they began moving from park to park every four or five years. My siblings and I were, sometimes reluctantly, part of that adventure.

My memories of living in Bryce Canyon are vibrant. I remember the smell of juniper, the feeling of my feet running across the pine needle covered forest floor, helping my brother build tree forts, walking through meadow grasses with my sister, taking the park shuttle bus to the nearby town for ice cream, and riding my bike to the general store for hot chocolate when winter was nearing. I remember the hikes even more clearly—the Navajo Loop trail in particular. My parents had a tradition of taking anyone who visited us on this hike, and my siblings and I were always forced to go along. We hated it. Our complaints concerned the heat, the cold, the length, the fact that we had already been on that hike numerous other times, the extra mile on the Queens Garden trail they always tacked on, and that we probably hiked that very same trail just the week before. I came to know that trail like the back of my hand. I knew every single switchback, which hoodoo was around the next corner, and where the fallen log was that we would stop at for lunch. Even though my feelings were lackluster about it as a kid, if you ask me today what my favorite trail is, I will affirmatively tell you it is the Navajo Loop trail.

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Sunrise Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, 2017

Four years went by, and like clockwork, we were off on a new adventure. I remember dreading the move, wishing I could stay in Utah with my friends and the familiarity of my surroundings. What I didn’t know was that moving away from Bryce Canyon would be essential to the development of my appreciation for public lands. I realized this a few years after I found myself in a Washington, D.C. suburb, surrounded by what most people would consider normal amenities—fast food restaurants, a grocery store that was less than ten miles away, a shopping mall, and public transportation. I could drive to D.C. in less than an hour and to New York City in four. Three huge airports were nearby. My school class size grew from eighteen students to over 300. My school bus ride shortened from over an hour to ten minutes. For the first time, I had my own bedroom, a house with more than one story, a yard, and I lived in a “real” neighborhood—one outside of a National Park entrance station. At first, life was good. This was the shiny normal life I had always imagined and craved. Consequently, my interests shifted to all things material. I wanted to live in a city, be a fancy corporate attorney, make an unnecessary amount of money, and drive a Benz. I officially lost my connection to the outdoors and in turn, I lost myself.

I remember being unhappy during that time. I didn’t feel like I had a direction in life, I was overly concerned with other people’s perceptions, and my mental health began to suffer. My connection to the outdoors was still there, but I had forgotten it. I was lost. Slowly, I began to realign with my roots. I began mixing my passion for running with nature. I had spent most my time outside running around a track. But soon, I swapped the rubber for dirt and began running on trails. I began hiking, getting intentionally lost in the West Virginia forests. Eventually, the woods found me again. I rediscovered my connection to place. My interests and priorities changed. Spending time outdoors allowed me to focus on the things that are truly important to me and enabled my ability to leave a positive impact on our world. I found a life of simplicity and a grounding to the natural world that has given my life clarity. This focus has brought me back to the days of being a kid running around on red dirt, pine needles, and rocks.

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Navajo Trail Loop, Bryce Canyon National Park

I recently returned to Bryce Canyon National Park. It had been fourteen years since I’d looked over the rim of the canyon. An indescribable euphoric feeling came over me once again. I raced to catch the sun rise over the canyon at the aptly named, Sunrise Point. The magnificence was overwhelming and I soaked in every second of the color show on the hoodoos. I was home.

Later that morning, after stopping by my old house and visiting the general store, which was still serving hot cocoa, I hiked the all too familiar Navajo Loop trail. I laughed thinking about my many complaints walking that same path as a child—especially my complaint that the hike was too long. The hike, including the extra mile on Queens Garden trail, took about a half an hour to complete. I suppose my perception of distance and time as a kid was a bit off.

Spending time in Bryce Canyon again was a clear reminder of the impact of place. This beautiful canyon is responsible for shaping my identity. I am forever grateful to its wisdom, its patience, and its acceptance. I am a firm believer that everyone has a similar connection to a landscape, a peak, or a trail. For me, the most special part about a sense of place—the belonging, the connection, the euphoria­—is being able to share it with others. Our public lands give us that great gift. My hope is that everyone may find something so worthwhile about preserving these places, they deem it worthy of investing their lives within.

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Sarah, Katie and Troy Danno, Bryce Canyon National Park, 2001


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The Importance of Public Lands

By Caitlin Buzzas

I grew up in Montana. Both my parents love to be outdoors and it is why they decided to raise a family here. My father is a third-generation Montanan and my mother felt such a connection to the State that she moved here after she set eyes on it for the first time. However, while growing up, the hikes, camping trips, and all other attempts to get us outside usually felt like a chore. My sisters and I were constantly complaining about my parents not bringing enough snacks (they didn’t), getting attacked by mosquitos (it was awful), or that we were tired and our feet hurt (we were weaklings). My parents continued to drag us out because they loved it, and even the constant complaining of their three daughters couldn’t ruin public lands for them.

Dolly Sods eveningIt wasn’t until I lived in cities that I started to appreciate our nation’s public lands. I moved to San Francisco one summer in college and lived in a concrete jungle. One weekend, I went to the Muir Woods with some friends and suddenly realized what had been missing from my life all summer. Being in the woods felt like home and gave me a renewed sense of self and balance. I had not known how much being in nature was a part of what I needed until that day. After college, I lived in Washington D.C. and the public lands of West Virginia and Maryland become my solace from the busy pace of the cDolly Sods creekity. I could get out of town, turn off my phone, and spend the weekend backpacking through the diverse terrain of the Dolly Sods Wilderness. I could run up to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain and feel completely immersed in nature and separated from the stress of D.C. life.

Behavioral scientists know the benefits of being in nature and what it does to reduce stress, anxiety, and a host of other ailments. I learned firsthand how important nature is to me when I was separated from it. However, I am not the only one who needs our public lands—they are needed by millions of Americans. They are essential to our way of life and essential to our well-being; I don’t know what is more important than that.


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What Public Lands Mean to Me

By Kevin Rechkoff

I like to kid myself. Pretend I was born with a backpack on, boots laced, ready to roll at a trailhead. In reality, I’m a city boy. Brought up just north of Seattle. Most of my weekends growing up consisted of soccer fields and basketball gymnasiums, not camp sites. This urban lifestyle made me want to join the Boy Scouts, I think. To be honest, I’m not sure if I begged my parents to join, or if they signed me up. Either way, bravo. My folks were, and are, hardworking primarily city-going types. I’ve never been camping with my father, and the only time my mom and I set up a tent was when we did so in our front yard, spending a July evening 10 feet from the house. The Boy Scouts provided me a safety-valve of sorts, a pressure release from the buzz of the city. With the troop, I got to go camping, learn survival skills, and become a marksman with a .22 caliber.

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Despite this exposure, I still didn’t get to experience the woods all that often. Perhaps that’s why public lands, and my time spent outdoors in general, strike me so profoundly. Weekends spent hiking and camping deep into the Cascade Mountains provided me with a sense of solace and pride. Pride in my state and pride in my country. To make the conscience decision to protect public lands, was and continues to be one of the greatest collective decisions our government ever made.

Keeping public lands intact is essential to city boys like me. The reality is that most of my childhood friends don’t care for the woods in the city park, let alone acres upon acres of forest, hundreds of miles away. But I know what public lands gave me, the feeling of connection to place, the foundation of reverence for nature that I carry today.

In hindsight, I messed up in not getting my friends to the woods soon enough, for I believe it is in our youth we create the habit of stepping outside of our comfort zone. Nothing can do that better that hearing a tree limb crack in the dark for the first time and wondering anxiously what moves just feet away.Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 8.32.14 AM

Public lands are for both the people of the cities and those of the wilderness. They are places of wonder, curiosity, and grandeur. They must be protected.


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Zinke’s Trust Responsibility


By Lillian Alvernaz

One week after the Senate confirmed Ryan Zinke as the 52nd Secretary of the Interior, Zinke testified in front of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on March 8, 2017. Acknowledging historical difficulties, Zinke stated his intention to address and improve the relationship between the Department of the Interior and American Indian tribes. Zinke’s appearance in front of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs was well attended and greatly awaited by many. Almost every member of the Com
mittee attended—some members needed to rotate in and out of the room so that each member was able to vote.Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 12.11.03 PM

“Consultation is at the heart of it,” Zinke testified in front of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., “[c]onsultation has been inconsistent at best.” Moving forward, it appears Zinke will create “his own path and policies.”

Zinke failed to endorse Obama’s “Improving Tribal Consultation and Tribal Involvement in Federal Infrastructure Decisions”[1] concerning the inconsistencies of tribal consultation. Nevertheless, he joined the Department of the Army and the Department of Justice’s report concerning the impact tribal communities are experiencing from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Zinke ultimately stated that the Pipeline was “flawed,” regardless of the various tribal nation’s participation in it.

Aside from issues of tribal consultation, Zinke touched lightly on land-into-trust goals by commenting on the large number of applications he may receive as Secretary. Further, Zinke acknowledged the Bureau of Indian Education by noting the poor conditions of Indian schools and commenting that it was “unacceptable” for Indian students to attend in those conditions.

Even though Zinke had to leave the Committee meeting early, Zinke seems willing to be heavily involved and well intentioned regarding his duties to enforce the trust responsibility.





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