'Unacceptable': Groups Urge National Archives to Reject Zinke's Request to Destroy Federal Documents Related to Drilling, Mining, Timber, and Species Protections

September 16, 2020 0 By JohnValbyNation

Warning that it could threaten the ability to hold the department accountable, a watchdog group on Monday urged the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to refuse a request (pdf) from the Interior Department to destroy records including ones related to oil and gas leases and endangered species issues.

“It’s unacceptable that Interior is already turning their efforts to destroying documents when they can’t even respond to the public records requests they have coming in,” said Chris Saeger, executive director of Western Values Project (WVP).

“Despite his claims to the contrary,” Saeger added, “[Interior Secretary Ryan] Zinke is trying yet again to pull wool over the eyes of the American people by keeping the public in the dark while his department wages attacks on public lands and wildlife.”

As The Missoulian reported earlier this month, the proposal by Zinke to change how long documents are kept would cover six specific areas involving the agency’s management of fish and wildlife:

“Yet another attempt by the Trump administration to undermine protections for endangered species for their buddies in various polluting industries.”
—Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological DiversityIn his group’s letter (pdf) to the National Archives, Saeger notes that the “request covers documents going back more than 50 years from every agency within the Department of Interior,” and expresses fears that green-lighting the move “could open the door for the destruction of similar types of records from the current administration, preventing the American public from ever determining whether high-ranking Interior officials, including Secretary Ryan Zinke and Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, acted in the public interest or on behalf of their own personal and political agendas.”