The Swamp Watchers: Western Values Project


Western Values Project

About Us: We bring accountability to the national conversation about Western public lands and national parks conservation – a space too often dominated by industry lobbyists and their allies in government.

A majority of folks who live in the Rocky Mountain West strongly believe in balancing resource development with protecting our Western way of life.

It’s why businesses locate here, people visit from around the world, and why millions choose to call the region home. Westerners want and expect our public lands to support good-paying jobs, provide world-class recreation and tourism opportunities, and support healthy, thriving communities – a mix only possible when our communities, government, business and industry strike the right balance between resource development and conservation.

Founded in 2013 and based in Helena and Whitefish, Montana and Washington, D.C., Western Values Project brings transparency to the public lands debate. Our research team investigates the connections between powerful special interests and the politicians they seek to influence, with the intention of holding public lands decision makers at every level of government accountable. When we find evidence of corruption and other wrongdoing that jeopardizes our outdoor heritage, we inform the public to hold our elected officials accountable.

Western Values Project is a project of New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity fiscal sponsor that provides administrative support to hosted projects — an umbrella organization that provides administrative support to non-profit advocacy organizations. Our work is backed by organizations and individuals across  America that support a responsible approach to managing our nation’s public lands.

If you have any questions or need to get in touch with us, please email or directly contact members of our team. Sign up for action alerts, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

The Facts


Western Values Project aims to provide members of the media, policy makers and the public with an honest, accurate and rhetoric-free source of information about energy development on public lands.Read More

Blog Releases

December 18, 2018 by

Five Questions Trump’s Interior Secretary Nominee Needs to Answer

The American Public Deserves to Know How Their Public Lands, National Parks and Wildlife Will be Managed

As former scandal-plagued Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke resigns, due to pressure from the White House and President Trump to avoid being fired, rumors as to who will be the next Secretary of the Interior are swirling.

While many believe the natural progression is for Trump to appoint the conflict-riddled Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, other names have started to surface. The American public deserves answers from Trump’s eventual replacement to some critical questions about public lands and the Interior Department:

Will the nominee oppose to the sale and/or transfer of public lands?
  • President Trump’s son, Don Jr., urged his father to nominate Ryan Zinke as Interior Secretary in large part because Zinke claimed to oppose the sale and/or transfer of public lands. Still, some Interior bureaus have recommended the disposal or sale of public lands under Zinke’s tenure. Any potential nominee should clarify the administration’s position and come out strongly against the sale and/or transfer of public lands and focus on increasing public access to those lands.
How will the nominee end the culture of corruption that permeated Interior under Zinke? Will they rid the department of the conflicted political appointees Zinke hired and replace the industry representatives he appointed to boards?
  • Scandals, corruption and special interests favors were hallmarks of Zinke’s tenure, with many of his political appointees and board appointments coming from special interest backgrounds as documented on The next Interior Secretary must work with Congress to do ensure Zinke’s and Trump’s political appointees aren’t doing special favors for their former employers while holding those who have accountable in order to restore the American people’s trust in the country’s largest land managing agency.
Will the nominee run a transparent, accountable Interior Department and solicit public input on departmental decisions?
  • Zinke made the promise to be transparent but then made decision after decision behind closed doors often in an apparent attempt to exclude the public. In order to ensure decisions include the public with ample notification and participation that weighs public sentiment, any nominee should immediately review all instructional memorandums and/or agency rules issued during Zinke’s tenure that shut the public out of public land, wildlife and national park decisions.
Will the nominee restore science-based decisions that honor long-standing relationships and agreements without handing over America’s public lands to special interests?
Will the nominee commit to restore and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and end Zinke’s harebrained efforts to reorganize the department and privatize our national parks?
  • Funding for the most critical public access and parks fund, LWCF, expired under Zinke’s leadership, losing some $192 million for parks and public access so far. The next secretary must commit to getting this legislation passed and permanently funded so the program does not lapse again. They should also commit to ending any national parks privatization schemes Zinke had in the works and halt department reorganization plans until a thorough analysis is done on any potential efficiencies that would be gained with the consultation of Congress.

There will much more clean-up to do after former Secretary Ryan Zinke rides his horse into the sunset, but getting a potential nominee to answer these urgent questions and promise to adhere to their answers is a good start to repairing the public’s trust in the Department of the Interior.

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