In interview, Sec. Zinke responds to state-wide Alaskan issues

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - In an interview with Channel 2's Washington D.C. bureau, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke commented on several hot topics in the state.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke talks with Jacqueline Policastro about Alaska priorities.

Those issues included a land swap to allow a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, the resignation of several National Park Advisory Board members, including former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, the possibility to change the name of Denali back to Mt. McKinley, and commercial fishing and salmon runs.

When it comes to the road to King Cove, a controversial project that recently saw a lawsuit filed against the US government by environmentalists, Zinke said that its construction is "absolutely the right thing to do."

"A village that’s in the Aleutian chain has the right to have access to medical emergencies by an air strip and that’s exactly what we did. It’s a single lane gravel road that does no harm, but it’s the right thing for the village," Zinke said.

When asked about former Alaska State Gov. Tony Knowles, who recently resigned from the National Park Advisory Board, citing that he felt the board was being shunned by the department, Zinke brushed the criticism off.

"Well he just could have picked up the phone, and said hello, but he didn’t," Zinke said.

Zinke also discussed the possibility of a sexual harassment failing on the board's part. Zinke quoted one of the members as saying that dealing with the issue wasn't their job, and said, "If I would have known that, I would have fired him and not given him the chance to resign."

Since the resignation of Knowles, and seven other board members, the Department of the Interior has said the board turned a blind eye to sexual harassment issues at National Parks, and ignored allegations of ethics and management failures against the Service's former director by the inspector general.

When asked again regarding President Trump's campaign pledge to change the name of Denali back to Mt. McKinley, Zinke stuck to his prior statements that supported the Obama-era name change.

Lastly, Zinke spoke about the possibility of the federal government stepping in to address concerns from fishing communities that over fishing is effecting the salmon runs.

"(The fishing industry) is the most highly regulated activity, and they do it right." Zinke said. "Our regulatory framework I think is appropriate."

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