The Interior Department’s deregulatory agenda

The actions taken by Zinke’s Interior Department have different levels of legal permanence.


Many of the Trump Interior Department policies were either pushed through administratively, and can be easily overturned by a new administration, or have yet to become final rules. Below are influential policies sorted by their legal status.

Final Rules
: These rules can be challenged in court, but unless they are overturned they must go through a lengthy and public rulemaking process to be reversed.

Methane waste prevention rule

This rule withdrew a 2016 regulation that limited flaring of methane and other emissions from oil and gas operations on public land.

Hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands

This rule withdraws compliance requirements for fracking operations intended to protect groundwater.

Revocation of mitigation policies regarding: endangered species, habitat

These rules override policies that required extractive industries using public land to mitigate their impact on endangered species and habitats by protecting habitat elsewhere.

Proposed Rules:
These rules are currently being proposed by the Interior Department but have not been finalized.

Freedom of Information Act Regulations

This rule would make it harder for journalists and other watchdogs to obtain documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The commenting period, which began under the partial government shutdown, ends Jan. 28.

Hunting and Trapping in Alaska's National Preserves

This rule would remove restrictions on certain hunting and trapping practices, like bear baiting and shooting animals from boats, on preserves operated by the National Park Service in Alaska.

Revision of regulations regarding endangered and threatened wildlife and plants: critical habitat, threatened species, conservation costs

This package of three rules limits the authority of agencies to designate critical habitat, lessens habitat protection requirements for threatened species, and takes out agency guidance that forbids agencies from considering the economic costs of species conservation.

Secretarial Orders and Instruction Memoranda: These orders and policy directions can be reversed or overruled at any time by the current administration or on day one of a new administration.

Revocation of USFW lead ammo ban

This order, signed on Zinke’s first day as Interior Department Secretary, overturned a ban on the use of lead ammunition on Fish and Wildlife Service land and waters.

Greater Sage Grouse Conservation Plans

This order replaced the 2015 greater sage grouse plans with one that reduces habitat protections for the iconic birds of the Western high desert. The rewrite is likely to face multiple legal challenges.

Streamlining National Environmental Policy Act Reviews

This order sought to limit the length and scope of environmental reviews of projects that impact federal land.

Oil and Gas Leasing Reform

This policy sought to shorten the commenting time period for oil and gas lease protests. An Idaho judge issued a preliminary injunction on the rule in October delaying leases on more than 1 million acres of oil and gas leases in sage grouse habitat.

Carl Segerstrom is a contributing editor at High Country News, covering Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies from Spokane, Washington.  Email him at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor

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