We, the undersigned, are writing to express our strongest objections to Secretary Zinke’s reported remarks that 30% of the 70,000 employees at the Department of the Interior are “not loyal to the flag.” The Secretary’s disrespectful remarks were made at the National Petroleum Council meeting in Washington, D.C., on September 25, 2017.
As organizations comprised almost entirely of retired professional employees of the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our collective experience has been that the overwhelming majority of employees of these agencies are highly dedicated to our great nation and to fulfillment of their respective agency missions regardless of which political party occupies the White House. Employee commitment to mission and country is not a partisan issue.
The Secretary’s remarks reveal a profound lack of knowledge of and respect for the important and honorable role played by thousands of Interior employees who are among the most dedicated employees in the federal government. Saying that over 20,000 employees in his department are “not loyal to the flag” is simply ludicrous, and deeply insulting. The longstanding tradition of Interior employee commitment to each of their respective missions is highly desirable and should not be misinterpreted as disloyal or subversive to our national interests.
We truly hope that the Secretary’s words were not simply partisan political pandering to an audience comprised primarily of energy industry representatives. Taken at face value, Zinke’s disrespectful and divisive comments reveal far more about his leadership style, values, and lack of regard for the irreplaceable resources now increasingly vulnerable to his political zeal than about the quality of employees at Interior. He owes a sincere apology to the employees he has disrespected. And he owes America a duty to uphold the diverse mission, nature and professionalism of the Department of Interior which is so woven into the fabric of our great Nation.
Maureen Finnerty, Chair
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
Jesse Juen, President
Public Lands Foundation
Association of Retired Fish and Wildlife Service Employees