BILLINGS – U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says his department can do "a lot better" to manage our national parks.
The Republican says they need catch up on infrastructure and the more than $11 billion maintenance backlog at parks such as Glacier and Yellowstone.
The Whitefish native, who was confirmed as Interior Secretary last in March of 2017, is directing the agency that controls one-fifth of the nations land mass and has more than 70 thousand employees.
Secretary Zinke spoke with MTN News on Wednesday about the record visitation numbers at parks like Glacier — which saw more than 3 million visitors last year — and how the Trump administration is keeping up with maintenance issues.
"Because they are being loved to death — to your point — 300 million visitors to our park system last year. And the numbers are going to grow. Now we need to catch up our infrastructure, and the President’s budget is the largest investment in this history of this country on our parks, our wildlife refuges, and Indian education," Secretary Zinke said.
"So let’s catch up on infrastructure, and then let’s look at public lands around the park and reorganization. There’s no reason why a trailhead can’t begin on adjacent forest service property or adjacent BLM and transition into the park and out. There’s no reason why we can’t use our public lands more effectively by making sure the trail systems connect. We can do a lot better," Secretary Zinke concluded.
Secretary Zinke used his in Billings to announce that Montana is receiving $40.1 million-dollars in PILT funds.