An internal watchdog cleared Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of allegations he favored a friend and political ally when redrawing the boundaries of a national monument in Utah in 2017, The Associated Press reports.
The inspector general (IG) for the Department of the Interior (DOI) found no evidence that Zinke gave Utah state Rep. Mike Noel special consideration when rolling back the boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, according to a copy of the IG report obtained by The AP. (RELATED: Report: Past Presidents Created National Monuments To ‘Prevent Economic Activity’)
Noel owns land that fell in and around the monument’s former boundaries. That land is now outside the boundary of the monument.
President Donald Trump announced in December that he would roll back the designations of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments by roughly 85 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
“[The IG report] shows exactly what the secretary’s office has known all along — that the monument boundaries were adjusted in accordance with all rules, regulations and laws,” DOI spokeswoman Heather Swift told The AP. “[The report] is also the latest example of political opponents and special interest groups ginning up fake and misleading stories, only to be proven false after expensive and time-consuming inquiries by the IG’s office.”
Democrats and environmentalists have played up potential and ongoing investigations into Zinke’s conduct. Zinke is currently the subject of a probe into a Montana land deal between a foundation he started and a development project backed by David Lesar, former chairman of Halliburton.
An October report by the IG cleared Zinke of any misconduct related to traveling with his wife.
The DOI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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