Environmental Science
Rob Rogers

Fascinating piece in the Los Angeles Times last week about what's been going on in Donald Trump's Department of the Interior.

The country is being damaged by a government that really doesn't want to govern, but because everyone is being distracted by Trump and his tweets, few are paying attention.

The story revealed how Ryan Zinke, the former Montana congressman who believes that climate change is an "unsettled" theory and that more public lands need to be opened to commercial use like mining and ranching, has been moving scientists out of their jobs and into unrelated positions in an effort to thwart their research.

An example the story cites is that of Interior Department manager Joel Clement, who had long worked on protecting Alaskan villages from rising seas undoubtedly caused by warming temperatures, being suddenly transferred to a new job auditing fossil fuel company leases, something he knows absolutely nothing about.

This, according to the story, has been happening to dozens of longtime Interior Department civil service workers.

"I've talked to a lot of folks who have been around the federal government for decades and they say transitions can be tough, but what this group is doing is remarkable," said Clement. "They have moved me into an area I know nothing about. It might as well be Chinese."

Clement has since filed a whistle-blower complaint against Zinke. The job in which he advocated for the Alaskan villages hasn't been filled, while the sea keeps rising.

Zinke, whom Cap Times associate editor John Nichols described as one of the horsemen of the Trumpocalypse in his new book, complained that when he took over the Interior Department, at least 30 percent of the "crew" he inherited wasn't "loyal to the flag," meaning, apparently, that they were not in sync with his views on the environment.

But Interior is just part of the story. The same has been true over at the Environment Protection Agency, where former Oklahoma attorney general and longtime EPA-hater Scott Pruitt's in charge. Pruitt's been so upset with leaks about what he's doing to the agency that he is currently installing a soundproof room in his office to prevent anyone from overhearing his phone and in-person conversations.

Pruitt has effectively frozen out longtime civil servants, many with doctorates in environmental sciences, because their lifelong work doesn't jibe with the Trumpian view of the environment or the climate.

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Several of the scientists have simply left the EPA because their work has been effectively dismissed.

Something tells me that when this crew gets through doing their under-the-radar dirty work we're going to find an extremely broken country.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.