Town Hall Meeting - Jan 2018

Transcript: 

David Bernhardt: Good afternoon. Thank you for taking the time to attend or tune in to today's event. My name is David Bernhardt, and I currently serve as the deputy secretary.

I've been asked to do two things this afternoon. First, get folks to actually take their seats in our newly refurbished auditorium. Second, to introduce the secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, who really needs no introduction.

We all know that Ryan has served on the front lines. We know he is interested in ensuring that our folks in the field have the resources they need to better accomplish their missions, and we know that Ryan loves public land.

However, there are two other traits that I want to emphasize, as he begins his discussion today, that he has uniformly applied since I met him just a little bit over a year ago. First, he is willing to listen to varied views, all with the intent of ensuring that he makes more informed decisions. Second, he is more than willing to make the tough decisions when they arrive.

For me, those are two crucial traits to serving as a secretary of the interior. This is a man who cares about the department. He cares about you and the people we serve. Ladies and gentlemen, it's my honor to introduce the 52nd Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke.

[applause]

Ryan Zinke: Wow, a lot of people. Good to be with you and good to be at a great theater. Why I'm here. I've been a team member all my life. I played football at Oregon, I was with the Seal teams, and now I'm here. This journey in Interior is our journey.

Nobody has all the answers, but since we're here in the headquarters and we talk to the field a lot, it's important, as the Interior team, we work together, we exchange information, and we make sure that, as a team, we make Interior much better.

Philosophy. Some of you have heard this story before. People always ask me, "What's your philosophy on public lands and what's our treasure?" I'll tell you a story.

I'm a huge admirer of Roosevelt. I tell this story about when Roosevelt went out to Yosemite, and he met one of our greatest naturalists, John Muir. When he was out there, John Muir spent a lot of time trying to stuff flowers in Roosevelt's pockets, successfully sometimes. They went for a wonderful ride in Yosemite, a ride, by the way, you could not replicate today, because there's too much dead and dying timber.

Roosevelt meets Muir, he comes back, but he hires a gentleman by the name of Gifford Pinchot. Gifford Pinchot was the father of our American conservation ethic, which is best science, best practices, longest term, greater good.

I understand and respect Muir. There are places where man should have the lightest possible footprint, where man is more of an observer. But, by and large, I prescribe and support the Pinchot model, because I've seen the consequences when you don't manage.

I grew up in the foothills of Glacier Park. Believe me, I've seen the devastation of the fires year after year after year. A lot of it has to do with the fire load. The fuel load is too high. We don't graze as much as we used to on some of our wildernesses, so you have a lot of dead and dying timber. The fuel load's too high.

When you had these devastations and devastating fires, California being one of them, not only did you have a fire, but you had sterilizations of soil, you had a follow-on rain, and you had catastrophic events. Landslides resulted in death. A lot of that was unavoidable.

At Interior, we face an $11.5 billion backlog. It's not very helpful to address that backlog when we're spending $2.5 billion a year fighting forest fires. It's not very helpful when we put our firemen at risk and we ruin habitat. The public looks at our performance, and they doubt that we're capable of managing our lands.

Up front, I am not an advocate for selling or transfer of public land. I am an advocate for us being the greatest stewards, because we have a noble mission at Interior. I talk a lot about the parks, but I recognize we have other bureaus and Fish and Wildlife.

The reason why I talk a lot about the parks and public is because good, bad, or indifferent, our parks are the storefront of Interior. We had 330 million visitors through our park system alone last year. About 500 million people through Interior property. That's a lot of people.

If I talk about Bureau of Reclamation or BLM when I'm someplace on the east side, it goes right over their heads because they don't recognize the importance of Bureau of Reclamation because they don't see it every day. Believe me, as Interior Secretary, I understand the importance of the team. If I talk a lot about the parks, understand it's for a message, but I recognize we're all here.

Our goals. We spent a lot of last year, in my judgment, repairing some of the things that we didn't do very well. We spent a lot of time on energy. Why? Three things.

One is that American energy is the cleanest, most efficient. If you want to look at environmental stewardship, I can tell you where not to produce energy because I've seen it. I invite you to go look at the Middle East or Africa, how our energy's being produced over there. It is better to produce energy in the US under a reasonable accountability, regulatory framework that we hold people accountable than watch it get produced overseas with no regulation.

Secondly, our economy matters. It matters even though we're not in charge of the economy at Interior. We'd have a lot to do with it. If we don't have people that are out there recreating, if we don't have people that have good jobs, then we can't afford a framework for sound environmental policies. We can't afford a military. We can't afford to keep up our parks.

Having an economy, a lot of it's driven on energy. If you're in the manufacturing, costs of labor are about the same around North America, but we can't compete with labor overseas, particularly China. You look at commodities about building materials, steel's about the same price in Korea as it is in Pittsburgh. The difference is innovation and energy.

Lastly, as a Navy SEAL, I never want your children to see what I've seen. Ever. I've fought in a lot of countries. I never want your children, grandchildren ever to have to go overseas and fight for a commodity we have here.

We spent this last year lighting the pilot light. How does it affect us, Interior? If you go back to 2008, we made about $18 billion a year just in offshore oil and gas. We were the number two revenue producer behind our good friends at the IRS. 18 billion.

When the president took office, that number was 2.6 billion. We dropped $15 billion in revenue a year. On scale, when we're faced with an $11.5 billion backlog in our parks, 3.5 billion backlog in our wildlife refuges, I'm responsible for the education of 48,000 Native American kids, 48,000. If you go look at those schools, not all of them are in good shape.

On scale, we would have addressed our entire backlog and had three billion dollars to reinvest, which we need, in one year. Last year was about energy. This coming year is different. This coming year, we're going to rebuild Interior.

Our parks are being loved to death. Our refuges are being challenged. Our schools are in shoddy shape. If you go out to Denver and look at our USGS building, it looks like a trailer park. I went out and looked at a "range" out at Las Vegas, and it looked like shooting at a garbage dump. That property belongs to the people.

We're going to rebuild. The president in his State of the Union address said infrastructure. His original text was about two hours. It was an hour and 20 minutes. The specific parts about us were lined out. But it's still there. It's in our budget. What we're going to do this year is begin to rebuild. We're going to use energy to pay for it.

I got to get Congress to agree with me. We have some great senators that have on both sides of the aisle that agreed. Mick Mulvaney and the White House also agree, so I'm fairly confident we'll get where we need.

Secondly, rebuilding is also the front line. When you spend time out in the field, one thing is immediately known. We're too short on the front line. Last time I was at Nevada, which was a couple days ago, for the entire southern Nevada, they have four maintenance guys, four. We got to re-shift our efforts to make sure the front line is healthy.

As a former military commander, if your front line is healthy that means they had the right resources, the right personnel, the right rules of engagement, the right authorities. If front line is happy, then the force is happy. Right now, we have some challenge on the front line.

Today, I'm going to talk a little about different parts, and then I'm going to open it up for questions and have an opportunity for all of us to answer. If I don't know the answer, I'll just say I don't know the answer.

The first slide is regulatory balance. We cut costs to make the economy move. You can look at my eyes, and I'll tell you we are not going to shortchange NEPA. NEPA is the backbone of sound environmental policy. We're not going to shortchange it.

I've heard criticism about offshore somehow we're going to make it easier. No, we're going to make it smarter. Having better reliability, using innovation, and improve safety is a goal that we all should share.

Regulatory framework is our job. Industry does not hold itself accountable. That's our job. Being good stewards of the land is making sure the framework is not arbitrary. If we say no, we should say no quickly. It shouldn't drag out 17 years for a maybe because it's arbitrary and investments are important. We need to do a better job at being a partner, but if the answer's no, it's no.

Public access. I'm a huge believer that we need to look at our holdings and make sure we're not shutting down roads and access for the next generation of Americans. Some of it, quite frankly, is what I experienced as a kid growing up. Every time I'd go away, I'd come back, a new road would be shut down. A lot of that was Forest Service.

Upfront, I want Forest Service in Interior. I made that point known, but I don't think I'm going to get the Forest Service. It's important that public lands belong to the people and not the government. By and large, we should make sure that public land, which belongs to the people, we should do our part to make sure there's access.

Some of that is I've hired a new Recreation guru. Rick May, raise your hand. Former Navy SEAL commander. Interior used to have a Department of Recreation. That bureau went away. We're bringing the R back in recreation. We're going to ask every bureau to look at their management plans and incorporate recreation.

That means if we got to put mooring buoys up, we got to go to public-private partnerships to have docks, make sure the trail systems connect with our friends over in the Forest Service, that's what we're going to do. Again, front line focus because our mission is to support the front line.

There's roles and missions we all have, but at the front line, which is the front line on your land managers, and your superintendents, and your interpreters out there that are looking at the public every day, and our law enforcement, that's our job to make sure that we support the front line. If you're not supporting the front line, then find a way to do it.

Next slide. Energy dominance. I talked about that. Why? I don't think we have to go in there. Upfront, I'm not oil and gas centric. I just want American energy. To me, I wish we had a battery. Maybe we will in the future. I just think American energy in all the above policy is prudent.

There's consequences of every type of energy. Wind energy chews up a lot of birds. Solar energy chews up a lot of ground. Oil and gas, you have the CO2. Coal, more CO2. There isn't anything free out there. Even as much as I love hydro, hydro's not free either.

There's a consequence of producing energy. Our job is to make sure we fund innovation. We do it right. The regulatory scheme is there. Again, it's better to produce energy here under reasonable regulation than watch it get produced overseas with none.

Trust. I want to trust the government. If you go out West, a lot of people don't. A lot of people don't trust BLM. They don't trust our law enforcement professionals. They don't trust that we can manage our lands. There's frustration. I want to be able to trust our government. Trust is working with people. Trust is listening to the local voice, that a state matters.

The sage-grouse, I love the sage-grouse, but sometimes listening to the state's desire is important. One size doesn't fit all. I can tell you the view from the Potomac here, it's a beautiful view, but it's a lot different than the view from the Yellowstone or the Rogue.

Sometimes, giving flexibility and working with our partners, whether it's Fish and Wildlife, or state parks, or working with our water friends, that's what we should be doing. When we take the position of being the adversary, then we lose a little trust.

King Cove, to me that was an easy decision. You had a little village out in the middle of nowhere. Just out a show of hands, how many people have spent time on the Aleutian Chain? OK. King Cove sits surrounded by hills that most of us could not climb. It's in an area that most of us could not find on a map.

Yet King Cove doesn't have access to everything we do in this room, an airport, a hospital because they need an 11-mile road from this little village to get to an airport so they could get their people in time of need to a hospital. Our Coast Guard heroes are having to jeopardize their lives in inclement weather in the Aleutian Chain. If they can fly and the conditions is even marginal, they'll fly.

They wanted a road. Alaska wanted a road. The proposition was I did a land exchange to give them the road. The federal state did not diminish. A single one-lane gravel road, which game uses all the time, that was the right decision in my opinion.

A Native America tribe asked. By the way, there is no other champion in our government to our native Alaskans and Native Americans other than Interior. When a Native American tribe asks for something, we need to understand that we're the champions.

If it's no, it's no, but we need to make sure that we honor our treaty obligations. For a lot of tribes, a lot of Native Americans, what they see is a faceless government. If Interior turns their back, then our US government does.

Next slide. Talked about infrastructure, and I talked about conservation stewardship in the Pinchot model. Let me talk a little bit more about stewardship. When you have as much pressure as we do, 330 million visitors through our parks, our parks are being loved to death.

Let's say we got all the money and fixed our infrastructure. Let's say that we redid our visitor centers. Still, we have the amount of pressure. Stewardship is also looking at 100 years from now as Roosevelt had the courage about 100 years ago today to take this nation on a journey of public lands.

We benefit from Roosevelt's courage as he took 165 million acres under federal protection. It wasn't all popular at the time. Roosevelt had enough courage to have a vision that the United States and its people should have public lands in perpetuity available and accessible.

When you have as much pressure as our parks and some of our public lands are, it's time to look at a better management system. Right now, we manage isolated assets, which leads me to reorganization. Why?

If you're the Park Service, you have your regions. If you're Fish and Wildlife, you have your regions. All our bureaus have different regions. I was surprised the regions don't line up. They don't line up geographically, number of regions. We have 2,600 locations across the country.

Where we are as a government is this. Let's say you have a trout and a salmon in the same stream. Happens all the time. Upstream, you have a dam. Happens all the time. Downstream, you have irrigation. That stream passes a US Forest Service holding, a national forest.

The salmon are managed by our good friends over in commerce through NEPs, the trout through Fish and Wildlife. That's us. Upstream, water temperature and flow is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Downstream, irrigation is Bureau of Reclamation. If it passes by a Forest Service holding, the surface is Department of Ag, our good friends of the Forest Service. Subsurface is BLM.

On the same management question on the same stream, you can have multiple biological opinions produced by multiple agencies that some of them are going to be in conflict and unreconcilable with each other. Certainly a country as great of ours can look at how to manage and be better stewards.

Some of it, quite frankly, is Interior. We began our journey in 1849. We were the fourth oldest department. There was State. There was Treasury. There was War. Then there was us. At the time, we were the department of everything else. I would argue probably Homeland is now the department of everything else.

Some of it is a legacy of being a very old department. As time goes by, you add bureaus. You add missions. We are what we are today. The reorganization looks at more landscapes. It looks at more ecosystems. It looks at watersheds. The first step is to look at our regions and try to do a unified regions.

The regions are not based on political boundaries. Our good friends down at the USGS, they've come up with regions that are based on watersheds, and wildlife corridors, and trail systems, and making sure that our Native Americans are not cut off as far as their tribal lands, and about 13 different variables.

We've come up with 13 different regions. We brought all the SCSs from the field. They looked at it. They murder boarded it. We're going to adjust the lines a little, but our first step is to look at a unified region. Then within those regions, once again bring the SCSs in, divide in groups, and then look at the best way to be stewards in those regions as far as landscape management.

Again, when you have...Yosemite as example. The visitor experience in Yosemite, and I'm very protective of visitor experience. I think it should be sacred. Today the visitor experience at Yosemite is you have about a four-hour wait, and then if you get in the gate, all the parking lots are full, you drive around the lap, and you leave.

If you're in Yellowstone, if you are waiting for a buffalo herd to get off the road, it's going to take a little longer, but same thing, long waits. Your experience really is no different than traveling down one of our freeways that's stuck in traffic.

Managing systems and making sure we push out. Trail systems should connect in our adjacent Forest Service lands. The parks probably are the footprint, within the parks are probably built out. We can look at pushing things on Forest Service land a little more. Again, starting your park experience outside the park. If there's BLM land, push a little more recreation out there.

Then probably go green on our top 10 or 12 parks. By going green, we should be able to have Tesla or one of our great people design a transporter. I don't call it a bus. I call it transporter because buses aren't cool enough. You got to have an experience.

Those who've been to Glacier in the old red buses that were in the 1930s, they still are iconic. Today, they're still cool, but given that we have an advance in technologies from the '30s, we can do it with zero emissions and have an experience in the parks.

Then when you get to a trailhead like we do in Zion, we also have to figure out so you don't have 45 or 60 people getting off the transporter at the trailhead at once. Walking up a trail with 70 people isn't a great experience either.

We're looking at apps like the millennials use that have our trail systems on it so you can look at a trail. The trail says red if it's really crowded, yellow if it's not, green if it's good. You can have the park experience, and we can take better care of our responsibility and our property.

The other thing is we're looking at Interior is 16 percent of Interior's retirement age today. In five years, 40 percent of Interior's retirement age, 40 percent. Looking at the room, that's probably about right. Since we have a senior Interior, we can reorganize without really moving a lot of people.

As people retire, [indecipherable 0:27] we'll take the 14 job, and we'll put it where it should be [indecipherable 0:27] . We don't have to rift anybody because people are going to naturally retire. My concern is this, is that how do you become a superintendent here? I keep on using the parks, park or a low land manager. How do you get to be a land manager?

What's amazing is there is not really a career path. As we look at reorganization, we owe it to our millennials as they come in and our junior managers of what's a career path in Interior look like for 25 years.

What jobs should you take? Should you go to a park for six years and then go to a region for a little while, rotate maybe after three years, understand how the different groups operate [indecipherable 30:20] among our family, then go back out to a park a little senior?

Should you see the experience in different parts of our country? At what time if you're going to be a superintendent should you maybe look at going to a contracting school so when you're a superintendent you can buy a pencil?

We need to figure out a career path, given that we have law enforcement, we have fire, and we have interpreters. We have a lot of areas. I think we should develop a career path so people know that 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years in what jobs should you take, what education should you have.

From a secretary's point of view, what do I need to program in? Because if I'm telling you that you need a contractor's school to get this position, or an education, then I should be able to program it in to make sure that I give you the opportunity to get what you need. That's making sure it's in the budget line so we don't steal from one program to fund another program.

Next slide. Lastly, sexual harassment. I say it because it's important. Among our bureaus you would think that work in Interior is the greatest job ever. I would think it would be, because we have a great mission. We have good people. The surveys that have come back from employee surveys say that we're not only not number one or not in the top 10, we're somewhere about 200-and-some bureaus. We are around 200.

Why? Is it because the work environment turns a cheek to sexual harassment or intimidation? That's some of it. You can hear it from me, zero tolerance. I fired four. I'll fire 400 if I have to. I come from a military background, and I don't care if you're Republican, Democrat. As long as you respect the mission, respect your teammate, and work hard to make Interior better, that's what's important to me.

What's really important is the work environment we share is a work environment free from intimidation, free from harassment. What I ask all of us to do, if you see something, don't turn a cheek. It's like the broken window syndrome. If you see a broken window and you walk past enough times, then that becomes normal.

I am hyper-competitive. I want to be number one. I want Interior to be number one. I want millennials to apply to be a part of Interior, and I want applications to fill this room up.

It's all our responsibility to be team members and take a stand. If it's your superintendent doing it, then go up the chain of command and find the next one. If it's the next one that's doing it, then you come to see me, because we're going to take care of it as an Interior, in our department.

I don't expect you to cry at the end of the day when you got to go home, but I do expect, when you wake up, to want to be a part of Interior. Honestly, I think we have the most noble of missions of any department. I really do.

We have a responsibility to be the greatest stewards of the greatest treasures on the face of the planet. We're in the oceans, 12 time zones. One-fifth of the territory of the United Sates falls under Interior. We have an enormous responsibility and a duty to the people of America to do our job, do it well, listen, and be the greatest stewards in the history of our country.

With that, appreciate you listening. Now it's time for me to listen to you. They've loaded up in this technology. They have questions from the field first, so I'll take those, because I think the field's important. Then there's four mikes up here. Come out to the mike, ask. Just state who you are, where you work, so I know, and then have at it.

Margaret Bradley: I can help facilitate that. Thank you, sir.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary. My name is Margaret Bradley. I'm with the Office of the Executive Secretariat. I have the privilege of asking, he'll answer, a few questions from the field. While I am speaking and the Secretary's answering I would encourage you to go ahead. If you have a question, make your way to the microphone right now.

Mr. Secretary, one of the questions we received is, "Over the next 25 years what are some of the major challenges you expect the Department of the Interior will face?"

Ryan: Water out west is going to be an issue. There's an old saying in Montana, "Whiskey's for drinking. Water's for fighting." Out west our basins, the aquifers, are being drained. There's more population centers moving to the west.

Water's a commodity that stems all life. That's part of the reasons why we designed our new regions on the basis of watersheds, because we have to be efficient in how we use them. There are limits of growth within those watersheds. Water is going to be an enormous challenge.

Fortunately, the Earth's got a lot of water, most of it in saltwater, so, at least on the coasts, we're going to have to look at the salinity and desalination plants. Our challenge is to make sure we monitor wisely. We don't waste it. We use it, but we want to make sure we protect our aquifers. Lake Mead, when it gets to a certain point, then we need to make sure it doesn't go any further.

Also, use. Again, you have 330 million people through our park system. I assume next year we're going to have more. Next year we'll have more after that. Harmonizing the public land a little more so trail systems connect, watersheds connect and making sure that you can diffuse some of the point pressures [indecipherable 0:36] season.

What we're seeing is the shoulder season in some of our parks is really not a shoulder season anymore. It's just less crowded. It's still crowded, but less crowded. Part of the reasons why we brought in all things recreation is that we need to look at some of our other BLM lands, making sure there's recreation opportunities, and build out a system better.

Softball pitch. Easy.

[laughter]

Margaret: Here's one that's a little bit harder, maybe. "What is DOI doing to prevent retaliation against employees if they share a concern about the agency? Therefore, what are we doing to help DOI create a culture where employees are encouraged to speak up if they see fraud, waste, or abuse?"

Ryan: What we did, one, it's leadership. Leadership starts from me, and goes all the way down to the GS2. It's got to be clear. All of us in this room should go down at least three levels and say the same thing on harassment, intimidation that I said.

Secondly is I was surprised we didn't really have a process of reporting. It didn't carry through. When a person is doing something he shouldn't, that wasn't followed through.

We're developing, with all of us in here, senior leadership, a process where it's fair, the rules are known, but you got to follow through. You can have all the rules you want, but if you don't enforce them, then it becomes a dotted line rather than a hard line.

Again, if there's an issue and you feel strongly about it, I know we have 70,000 employees, but I'm not that hard to find. Knowing I'll listen puts a lot of pressure on all the superintendents and supervisors all the way up, because if they didn't listen, they're held accountable.

It's all accountability. We're a team, and we all have to look out for each other.

Margaret: Again, I want to encourage anybody in the room, do feel free to make your way to the microphone so that I'm not dominating the questions here.

Another question that came from an employee in Virginia is, "What effect do you think the reorganization is expected to have on the number of locations and DOI positions going forward?"

Ryan: At the end of the day I don't think we're going to lose anybody, as far as numbers go. The numbers are going to be pushed more to the front line at the end of the day.

If you look at NEPA as the example of the trout and the salmon in the same stream, we're also looking at how to do things more jointly. Because on a NEPA process, among us, we probably should have those that are involved in it in the same room working for the same superintendent, or advisor, or director in the same location.

It doesn't mean we're going to eliminate a park service or one of our bureaus. There are a lot of functions that a park service or one of the bureaus does. They do policy. They do budgeting. There's programs. All those types of things.

If we look at 13 different regions, there's some functions that connect. That when something happens, particularly on a NEPA, and it's traveling, that's a pretty good example of trying to do it joint within that region so everyone has a say. Then making sure that state entities have a liaison.

Our friends over at the Forest Service, which have also said they would participate in this, have a liaison with us. The EPA also have a liaison.

We do things like NEPA and permitting, which need to be separate, but it should have all stakeholders in there so you begin and end with the same people, and all interests are represented. Because right now what happens is you tend to shop bureaus. One bureau gets done, and then hands it to the next bureau, then hands it to the next bureau.

It's a lot more efficient and better quality product if we start with everyone's stakeholders. If the answer's no, no, but if the answer is yes, then making sure that everyone contributes to making sure we mitigate any of the risks, or make sure we don't miss anything.

Yes, ma'am.

Robin Nixon: Hi, Mr. Secretary. I'm Robin Nixon here from the National Mall and Memorial Parks [indecipherable 43:41] .

Ryan: All right, 800 million what we're behind in. A lot of it is sea wall on that.

Robin: Yes, sir, and 33 million visitors a year, so it's hard sometimes.

Ryan: Everyone should know on the Mall that this summer the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Monument, the Lincoln Monument, and Arlington are all going to be under construction. We're probably going to put the World War II, the Atlantic site under construction, too. It's going to be a year of construction. A couple years, probably.

What's your question?

Robin: Very busy.

Given the large visitorship to parks in urban areas, like the National Mall, I'm interested to hear your perspective on how urban, and particularly, they aren't all urban, historic and cultural parks fit into the reorganization scheme, given that they're not so connected to watersheds, or landscapes, or wildlife corridors, etc.

Ryan: Great question. To your point, we have more than just the big parks out west. We have battlefields. We have homes of Presidents. We have a whole variety of parks and monuments.

We do connect to the system, to a degree. The way that we organize, we have regions today. The way that we organize just in watersheds, taking in consideration if you're in that region the headquarters element is going to be reflective of what's in that. Let me give you an example. Down in Louisiana, if you're in the Gulf, BSEE and BOEM show up. If you're going out west, BLM shows up a lot more.

On the East Coast you have a lot of battlefields, but the battlefields, particularly in the Civil War, are not unconnected because there was an entire campaign. We need to look at how to connect the visitor experience and go through. We have Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell and all those facilities, which need a lot work, by the way. Some of that, on our urban parks, an opportunity is to look at better technology.

For instance, the comments I got when I went to Constitution Hall, beautiful. I was with a bunch of kids, about the same age as my granddaughters. I was listening to their comments. I see, because I love history, a grandness of this is where the Constitution was written. What they see it as is a really old, dusty building.

Some of the technology, maybe we want to make it a living building a little more, and maybe use modern techniques of film or holograms so our next kids can see our Founding Fathers there. A lot of our urban experience, because they're smaller, injection of technology and improving the visitor experience, because it's not for us. It's for the next generation.

We also have a great story to tell. In some of our urban parks the story is what's around the building. Today we celebrated a civil liberties site with Ms. Anderson. It was terrific because the story was so powerful. She was the mother of the civil rights movement. That was pretty high acclaim from Martin Luther King Jr.

That story of American experience, that part of it for urban parks is part of our duty. We have enormous opportunity to tell a better story for the younger generation that sees the world a little differently than we do. They see the world through your iPhone or your iPad. We, in this room, see the story through a VCR.

I'll give you an example. When I say programmable VCR, I see your face. There's fear, right?

[laughter]

Ryan: You say programmable VCR to a millennial and, one, they don't know what a VCR is, and everything's programmable. To shorten it, the answer is we need to focus on technology, learning experience, and telling the story.

Yes, ma'am. Go ahead.

Sophia Liu: Hi, my name is Sophia B. Liu. I work at the US Geological Survey as an innovation specialist.

Ryan: As a what specialist?

Sophia: Innovation specialist. The one and only innovation specialist.

Ryan: In the entire USGS, you're the only innovation specialist?

Sophia: Yes, I created the position. It's a brand new position.

[laughter]

Ryan: Very innovative.

Sophia: Thank you.

[applause]

Ryan: We need more of you.

Sophia: Thank you. That would be part of the goal. A lot of work I do is around crowdsourcing, citizen science, and civic hacking.

I'm wondering if you see any opportunities and challenges with leveraging crowdsourcing using social media. Engaging our citizens in the parks to help understand the front lines, understand what's happening in the field. Engaging technology folks through hackathons as a way to basically upgrade and engage with how we present our information in a more technologically savvy environment.

Ryan: I want to talk to you. This is not my field of expertise, but it is yours. The interpreters, to a degree, have a pretty good handle on it. The USGS, we should be cutting edge in a lot of our technology, and I don't think we are. Some of it is refocusing, and then understanding how applications to technology can be overlaid in our system.

I talked a little about apps on trails. Fairly easy. We should be able to do apps as you come in on a park to figure out, one, on our ticket sales, our fees as you go in. If you want to go on lane one with our iconic ranger, that's great, but we should be able to figure out lane two, three, and four, as fast pass. You should be able to go online and do it.

On walking up a trail, you should be able to have WiFi. That's going to make some of the older visitors a little nervous, but WiFi's important because you can have a great trail experience. You can be informed about the geology, the fauna, and the wildlife as you go up the trail. If you see a bear, you can press so it beams over to the park ranger's office.

The other thing is we had a gentleman that's doing a different type of a system that doesn't require cell towers. It's a global system, rural system. Very innovative. That's where I think we need to go.

We don't need to pay for it, because a lot of this is public-private partnerships. That's how Delta Air Lines does it. When you go on and get the WiFi, they charge you 12 bucks or something like that. We can do the same thing. You go to parks, we're going to charge you 12 bucks. Maybe we get four bucks back for us. That's good.

I'd love to talk to you about it. Since you're Mrs. Innovation, show me how to innovate.

Sophia: Thank you.

Ryan: Yes, sir?

Chris Paventy: Afternoon, Secretary. My names is Chris Paventy. I'm a budget analyst with the Bureau of Reclamation.

Ryan: A budget analyst of the Bureau of Reclamation. As a former Congressman, you know how many dollars the Recreation has in the account that's never been appropriated?

Chris: It's in the multibillions at this point.

Ryan: It's enormously large. Same thing with LWCF. We collect the money, it goes into account, and then over the period of time the appropriators in Congress don't appropriate it all. We have billions of dollars that theoretically should have been tagged though some formula back to either for conservation purposes or recreation to do things like dams and water projects.

Chris: I can tell you, if you can get us access to that funding we'd be very happy about it.

[laughter]

Ryan: I don't give up very easy. I've had this conversation with Secretary Mnuchin.

Chris: I got a quick two-part question, if that's OK. Number one is as an employee of one of the bureaus that's routinely mentioned in the news as being shipped out west at some point in time in the future, I understand you're probably not prepared to discuss specifics today, but I was wondering if you have any type of timeline on when we can expect to get information.

Ryan: It's all fake news. No.

[laughter]

Chris: Number two, wondering who you got for the Super Bowl on Sunday.

[laughter]

Ryan: Two parts.

[laughter]

Ryan: I'll answer the easy one first. We're looking at Bureau Reclamation, we're looking at BLM, mostly because those activities are out west, but we're not there yet. From a person that's reorganized organizations before, it's better to have people where the activity is so you don't have to travel so far. There's goodness about shoring up your front line, but we're not quite there yet on it.

The candidates are probably Bureau of Reclamation, National Parks. There's National Parks equally split. BSEE and BOEM, probably. We're looking at down the Gulf, where they are, because there's some goodness in having industry and our players come see you. We have more than enough politicals in DC, so people see us all the time, but the experts that actually know something, it's nice to have a little more field access.

Don't hold your breath on timing because large-scale moves like that is going to take a Congressional authorization. I, as Secretary, have a lot of latitude of moving boxes, of presenting and doing those things. I don't have the latitude to make large-scale moves. I have to go to the Hill and defend the thesis on that.

Some of the beginnings is in the budget this year, about beginning to look at how we would do it. Fortunately, we have a lot of really good people out there. Mostly our senior managers that look at plus or minus. I don't want to do anything without looking at the unintended consequences. Sometimes there is a thirst when someone new comes in, "Oh, we're going to change everything." Don't fix a bike that's not broke.

We're looking at it very, very thoroughly. Susan Combs, raise your hand. Susan Combs is now the master of the reorganization. She's beginning, that's her charge, to take a look at it. No doubt, we'll have multiple meetings along the way.

Super Bowl. My wife is a Patriots fan. Up front.

[applause]

Ryan: I'm going to go with Philly.

[applause]

Ryan: I wore a tie. I had the White house press conference after the State of the Union. By chance I wore a Liberty Bell tie. I didn't do it for Philadelphia, but the first interview I did was the station from Philadelphia. Automatically, I was in. They asked me really nice questions, so I said, "I'm going to go with the Philadelphia team." On record, I'm Philly.

Anybody else? Now's your chance. We're all going to have more doggy days this year. What other big news is going on? We have a taker.

Audience Member: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. Thank you so much for having this town hall. What I am about to ask is both as a DOI employee and as a citizen. Last fall there was a tragedy. A young man lost his life on George Washington Parkway. There's a lot of concern in the public about the appropriate use of force on the part of the park police. I'm speaking of Bijan.

I know there was a group gathered outside of Interior last week wanting answers. I was just hoping if you could provide some updates. I mean no disrespect to park police or anyone in law enforcement, but just wanted to ask about this issue.

Ryan: I saw the video. I saw the video because it was on TV. I didn't see the video because I was secretary on it. I understand the broad circumstances around it. My understanding, the FBI now has it. Upfront, I'm a big supporter of our blue line. It's pretty tough out there if you're law enforcement right now. People view you much differently than they did a few years ago.

Our park police, I've ridden with them, they're by name great people. We'll get to the bottom of it if inappropriateness was taken. A lot of it is public trust. When you see one of our professionals, whether it's law enforcement or BLM out there, we want to make sure that we're doing the right thing. We got to hold ourselves accountable.

Quite frankly, when you're law enforcement, you are held to a higher standard in my eyes because you got a badge. You are granted additional authority, and therefore, with authority has to come additional accountability. That's all about being law enforcement, and signing up, and wearing the badge. It's a two-way street.

I appreciate it. Talk to the chief to if you...He's a pretty good guy. I get it. I get worried when people don't think they trust Interior on any division. Thanks.

Audience Member: Thank you.

Ryan: I appreciate it.

I'll leave with this. Keep the faith on it. The budget's going to come out. I haven't looked at it in detail because it's not out yet. I'm sure it's going to be very similar what the budget was last year.

You look at Congress and where we are as a country, you can't hide from the fact that one side of the budget keeps on growing and the other side of the budget keeps on getting pressure on it. We're on the side of the budget that keeps on getting pressure.

I have faith in Congress that in a country that we're going to have to understand that on both sides, discretionary, non-discretionary, it comes at a cost. Where are the areas that are growing? Is it appropriate to grow?

For us, that's why the infrastructure side on trying to light the pilot light is so incredibly important to me. On the budget, there's certain things we emphasize like we did last year. Make sure that we're doing fire suppression up front. The first act of fire suppression is fire prevention. That saves a lot of money in the budget. Forest Service would say the same thing.

We're monitoring where our grants were going. Not all of it was good. Not all of it was good. I have a stack of IGs on my desk. If you ever come on up or look at my office, I also have old newspapers from "Spokane Chronicle," 1911. Because interior handles money, sometimes there's some scandals going on.

Some of our grants were going out to people that should not get them. They weren't being followed through. In one case, a grant was being delivered to the Black Panthers. That organization killed a ranger. In some cases, we had grants that the same person was writing them had a relationship with the person that was getting them, and it was a pretty tight circle.

Our grant process, we also have hired a person to come in and just review them. I don't want to slow them up. I just want to make sure that all of us that are involved in grants can justify to the "Wall Street Journal," the "Wall Street Post," justify to the American people that this grant is absolutely correct.

If that grant's correct, then great. I don't pretend to know all of what you know about why we should give grants. That's why I leave it to the professionals. But how we give a grant, that's all of our responsibility to make sure we're doing it the right way.

As the budget goes through, we'll see. Stand by. At the end of the day, Interior will be as strong or stronger of a department next year as we are this year.

All right, thanks.

[applause]

2/11/2018
Last edited 2/11/2018