While federal agencies in Washington D.C. were in the midst of a delayed arrival due to the March snowstorm that slammed the Northeast, retired Navy SEAL and current Interior Secretary spent the day giving tours to visitors at the Lincoln Memorial and shoveling snow off the steps of the memorial, Independent Journal Review reported.
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As opposed to staying indoors and working at the Department of the Interior building, the newly confirmed United States Secretary of the Interior, called up the U.S. Park Police to check out the lands under his jurisdiction in emergency conditions.
An eager Zinke begins asking the Park Police officer tasked with driving him, what kind of procedures are normal on any given to them.
Pointing out a horse stable on the National Mall, Zinke said it was not meant to be there permanently but due to inefficient funds, a new structure for the horses was never built.
Zinke told an IJR reporter:
“Now this stable, this one was build out of wood. Not good for the horses if there’s a fire, right? It also has holes in the roof. You know why? Because it was built under a popular suicide bridge. People jump and put a hole in the roof of the stable. So our best horses live in a stable with holes through the roof and no place to run. I’m hoping to fix this. We need a proper facility for our horses, where they can run and live safely. This is the administration to get this done, too. You know why? Because I ride. Our Secretary of State rides. Our Vice President and his wife ride. They need good, healthy horses in D.C. and, of course, so do our officers.”
On March 2, Zinke rode a horse to work on his first day as Interior Secretary.
On Tuesday, Zinke asked the Park Police officer to take him to Arlington National Cemetery. While on the way, Zinke mentioned that the Memorial Bridge that helps connect to the cemetery was in need of $250 million worth of repairs.
After reaching General Robert E. Lee’s former residency in the cemetery, Zinke said he was disgusted by the condition that the house has been left in.
“If you look at the condition of the house, it’s terrible,” Zinke told IJR. “It should never have devolved to the state it’s in. This is hallowed ground. Enormously important to American history. You would never let your house devolve into this condition. I’ve seen the neglect of battlefields before and it always irritated me. Now I’m in charge. The buck stops at my desk.”
Asked about the poor repairs Arlington National Cemetery has received over the years, Zinke said, “I think it’s a national disgrace that things have been neglected this far. This didn’t happen overnight. That’s why I’m personally going out into the field to look at our battlefields and parks.”
When later arriving at a closed Lincoln Memorial, Zinke was asked if he wanted to go on the rooftop of the Lincoln Memorial. However, an agreement was made with an officer standing guard at the memorial that he had to shovel some of the snow on the steps.
He asked two of the visitors at the memorial if they would like to join him on the rooftop, to which they agreed. He also took a family of five from Dallas, Texas to the Lincoln Memorial basement to show them around, something very few get to see.
Asked about the biggest changes he has undergone since becoming Interior Secretary, Zinke said, “I used to complain about the grass being too long when I pass by a park in D.C. Now that’s my park! If the trash can is full, it’s my fault! It changes your perspective.”
Sec. Zinke served in the military for over two decades before retiring at the rank of Commander in 2008. Before enlisting, Zinke attended the University of Oregon where he studied geology. As Secretary of the Interior, the 55-year-old former SEAL will be responsible for overseeing and managing the nation’s public land, national parks, and wildlife refuges. As a former Congressman from Montana, Zinke served on the House National Resources and Armed Services Committees.
Before retiring as Navy Commander, Zinke was awarded two Bronze Stars for combat missions in Iraq. During his time in politics, Zinke has been an advocate for greater use of the nation’s public lands, pushing for policies which encourage energy production. He has also called for state control of energy development on federal lands.
Check out pictures from Zinke’s snow day at IJR.com.