Trump’s ski town connection

Native of ski town named by Trump to head Interior

WHITEFISH, Mont. – Ryan Zinke, the nominee of President-elect Donald Trump to become the secretary of the Department of Interior, will—if confirmed by the U.S. Senate – be the first such secretary to hail from a ski town.

Zinke, a native and current resident of Whitefish, did not mention skiing when he announced he’d accept the nomination.

“As someone who grew up in a logging and rail town and hiking in Glacier National Park, I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve Montana and America as Secretary of Interior,” said Zinke.

“As inscribed in the stone archway of Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Montana, I shall faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s belief that our treasured public lands are ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.’”

Interior includes the National Park Service, the Fish and Game Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. The Forest Service is in a different federal agency, the Agriculture Department.

Newspapers in the Whitefish area reported mostly positive comments from various interests about Zinke’s politics, but the Flathead Beacon pointed to comments several years ago by Zinke that suggest an emphasis on “multiple use and not single use.”

“I think we have lost our way in a lot of ways,” Zinke, a former trainer of U.S. Navy Seals, said in the 2015 interview. “We can mine and drill and still be responsible stewards of the land we cherish. Coal, oil, and natural gas are going to be part of our energy picture for a long time…”

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Zinke will replace Sally Jewell, who began her career in the oil fields of Oklahoma before eventually becoming chief executive of REI, the giant sporting goods retailer. Ken Salazar, who preceded Jewell as Interior secretary, hailed from a ranch in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, not far from the foot of Wolf Creek Pass and the eponymously named ski area.

How Jackson Hole will fare in the Trump era

JACKSON, Wyo. – What will the Trump presidency mean for ski towns and mountain resort valleys? Studying that question from the perspective of Jackson Hole, economist Jonathan Schechter finds a shelter in the storm.

“As long as the brave new order doesn’t wreak great and immediate havoc on our national parks and forests, we should be at least somewhat sheltered from the likely large budget cuts that will be implemented in order to offset the tax cuts,” he says.

“Similarly, because we are younger, healthier and whiter than the national average, we will not be hurt as much by the inevitable cuts to health care and social services, restrictions on voting rights and the like.”

But income inequality will be a problem. Teton County, i.e. Jackson Hole, already has the greatest income inequality of any county in the United States, he points out. In 2014, 11 percent of households made 84 percent of the total income.

Tax cuts promised by Trump and Republicans will create more wealthy people. “It seems certain those cuts will disproportionately benefit those who are well-off and earn large amounts thorough investments,” Schechter writes.

But Trump and the Republican Congress will likely cut social services, health care, and other areas where those benefitting can’t afford high-powered lobbyists, he says.
Can philanthropy fill the gap? “On a percentage basis, the amount given by Teton County’s wealthy residents is very high,” Schechter writes.

Rather, he sees opportunities for Republicans to increase incentives for charitable giving. Also, provide incentives for pollution reduction instead of environmental regulations. He does not, however, provide specifics about what these incentives might look like.