Puerto Rico Crowds Jam Dock Hoping to Board Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

Gerald Herbert  / Associated Press

Thousands of people evacuating Puerto Rico line up to get on a cruise ship in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, September 28, 2017. Gerald Herbert / Associated Press

Skift Take: Tourists and many Puerto Ricans alike are desperate to get off of the island as U.S. relief efforts have been abysmal and shameful.

— Dennis Schaal

Crowds jammed the cruise ship dock of San Juan on Thursday desperately hoping to get on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship the Adventure of the Seas, which was sent to help evacuate people struggling to find a way off Puerto Rico following the destruction of Hurricane Maria.

More than 2,000 people sweltered in the hot sun forming a line stretching down the shore and a pier.

“We’ve been in this line forever and it is hot,” said Taylor McCloskey, who goes to school in Miami.

She said she came to visit family in the U.S. territory after Hurricane Irma shut down her school in Florida for three weeks, and then she got stranded in Puerto Rico when Maria hit last week.

“I need to get back, I need to get back to my life,” she said. “There’s no water, no electricity. I don’t see anything coming anytime soon. It’s bad.”

It wasn’t clear how many of those jamming the dock would get a spot on the ship. Puerto Rico officials said only about 800 of the 1,000 tourists caught on the island would be boarding, while the other passengers would be Puerto Ricans leaving the island or friends and family of Royal Caribbean employees.

“We’ve been standing in line since 8 a.m.,” said Cara Rookwood of Philadelphia. “We have been trying to get on this supposed list that they have via email. I called my father and had him email the list but I don’t think they’re taking any more reservations at this point. But I’m getting a lot of conflicting information.”

Rookwood and her husband, Davin Safer, were on the island of Vieques when the storm crashed in, and could not find a way back to the Puerto Rico mainland for several days, until they finally were given a ride on a private plane.

Safer said he has never experienced anything like the aftermath of the hurricane, which knocked out electricity across Puerto Rico, shut down businesses, blocked roads and ports, and left the island’s 3.8 million people scrambling to find water, food and other necessities.

“Coming from a fairly normal stable background, I’ve never imagined that there could be so little security in America,” he said.

His wife added, “It’s been a strange, longer than normal vacation.”

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U.S. Warns Americans Not to Travel to Cuba and Guts Embassy Staff


JetBlue passengers show their enthusiasm on a flight from the U.S. to Cuba in 2016. The Trump administration is now warning against travel to Cuba. JetBlue

Skift Take: The Trump administration is looking for any excuse to reverse President Obama’s travel policies loosening travel to Cuba. The travel warning is another step, pending an already-announced rollback.

— Dennis Schaal

Senior U.S. officials say the United States is pulling roughly 60 percent of its staff out of Cuba and warning American travelers not to visit due to “specific attacks” that have harmed U.S. diplomats.

The officials say the U.S. is ordering all nonessential staff in the embassy in Havana to leave, along with all family members. Only “emergency personnel” will remain.

The U.S. is also warning American citizens they could be harmed if they travel to Cuba. A State Department travel warning will note that attacks on diplomats have occurred in hotels. [Skift Editor’s Note: Here is the previous, September 18, 2017 Cuba warning.]

The officials say the U.S. is halting visa processing in Cuba indefinitely. They say the steps will remain until Cuba can assure the U.S. its diplomats are safe.

The officials weren’t authorized to comment publicly and demanded anonymity.

This article was written by Josh Lederman and Matthew Lee from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Travel to Any Destination In the World in Less Than an Hour Is Elon Musk’s New Plan

NASA via SpaceX

The SpaceX cargo vehicle, Dragon, is pictured near the International Space Station delivering 6,400 pounds of supplies. NASA via SpaceX

Skift Take: This looks like it may indeed be the future of travel — for some. Jet lag? Nah.

— Dennis Schaal

Getting anywhere on the planet in under an hour — one of the more intriguing possibilities that Elon Musk, the billionaire innovator, raised as he unveiled plans for a new rocket.

Musk said the vessel would both take off and land vertically, like a space rocket. It would fly most routes — New York to Tokyo, for example — in about 30 minutes, and anywhere in under an hour.

At a presentation Friday in Australia, Musk showed off plans for the so-called BFR rocket, which would also be able to bring satellites into orbit and crews to Mars.

Musk’s company, SpaceX, has been able to make smaller rockets land vertically, though the technical and commercial feasibility of this new venture is yet to be determined.

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Pakistan Receives More Visitors as Its Security Improves

Mazhar Nazir  / Bloomberg

Saiful Maluk Lake in Pakistan is one of the destinations that is becoming more popular as the threat of terrorism recedes. Mazhar Nazir / Bloomberg

Skift Take: Since 2013, Pakistan has seen far fewer bombings, which explains why annual tourist arrivals have more than tripled. Let’s hope that the country’s “Emerging Pakistan” campaign has a tailwind.

— Sean O’Neill

After a bone-jarring mountain journey, Alan Cameron surveys the snow-capped peaks of Pakistan’s north near the Saiful Maluk lake. “It’s beautiful — well worth the effort,” said the 34-year-old Canadian holidaying in a country better known for terrorism than tourism.

Taking a break from his job as an analyst at Jefferies in London, Cameron’s vacation last month underscores the rekindling of Pakistan’s tourism industry after a sustained military security crack-down, with annual arrivals more than tripling since 2013.

Keen to shed the image that it’s unsafe for visitors, Pakistan has begun a nascent tourism drive and this summer placed adverts across the sides of London’s iconic red buses. Road infrastructure has also been boosted across key holiday regions.

Since the 2014 massacre of more than 100 children at a military school, the army has neutered some insurgent groups and political militias. Tourists are now returning to areas such as the Swat Valley, a northern region known as the Switzerland of Pakistan that was controlled by the Taliban between 2007 and 2009 and where Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai was shot in 2012.

As security improves, annual tourist arrivals to Pakistan have more than tripled since 2013 to 1.75 million last year, while domestic travelers rose 30 percent to 38.3 million, according to the state-owned Pakistan Tourism Development Corp. Over the same period, foreign tourist arrivals in the country’s larger neighbor, India, jumped from 6.97 million in 2013 to 8.8 million in 2016, government figures show.

The World Travel and Tourism Council puts the total contribution of tourism to Pakistan’s economy at $19.4 billion last year or 6.9 percent of gross domestic product. In a decade, the WTTC expects that to rise to $36.1 billion.

Still, security challenges remain. While casualties from attacks fell 43 percent last year, major cities, such as Lahore, are occasionally hit by bombings.

Jonny Bealby, the managing director of Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel Ltd., a London-based operator that has run trips to Pakistan for two decades, said his tours to the South Asian nation are up 60 percent from last year.

Along with security, Bealby said the main improvement in Pakistan has been infrastructure. “The roads have improved immeasurably reducing journey times.’’

Visa Challenges

Hotel bookings also increased 80 percent last year, according to Jovago, Pakistan’s biggest accommodation booking website. Many Pakistanis want to travel, but going abroad is difficult, said Nadine Malik, chief executive officer of Jovago Asia.

“It’s hard to get visas — it’s not easy and it’s not cheap,’’ she said in an interview in Karachi.

Likewise, for many foreigners getting a Pakistan visa is expensive and bureaucratic, said Ayesha Siddiqa, a research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and author of books on Pakistan’s military.

“A lot of people go to India because it publicizes itself as a tourist destination,’’ Siddiqa said. “It’s much more accessible.’’

The government is considering expanding the visa-on-arrival service beyond the current 16 countries, said Mukhatar Ali, a spokesman for the Pakistan tourism agency, without specifying which ones.

Meanwhile, resort spots like the northern town of Naran are buzzing with construction work, while hotels and restaurants enjoy a healthy trade from Pakistani holiday makers.

Even in Karachi, the turbulent port city known more for gang and political violence, tourism in and around the city has taken hold.

The Super Savari Express pioneered the colorful bus sightseeing tours in the Karachi in 2015 and wants to expend with regular trips around Lahore and Islamabad next year, according to Jehanzeb Salim, head of operations. “It’s about breaking mental barriers,’’ he said.

–With assistance from Kamran Haider Faseeh Mangi and Iain Marlow

This article was written by Chris Kay from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Southwest Air Says Natural Disasters Will Cost It $100 Million


Southwest Airlines Co. plans to shift its domestic reservation system to a new platform on Tuesday, attempting to avoid the havoc that plagued similar transitions at other carriers. Bloomberg

Skift Take: Southwest rarely gets put in this position. Which makes us think that despite the high price tag, it is not going into the next quarter panicking about its performance.

— Jason Clampet

Southwest Airlines Co. said third-quarter sales will take a $100 million blow from this year’s devastating hurricanes and earthquakes.

About 5,000 flights had been canceled through Wednesday because of the natural disasters, the carrier said in a statement Thursday. Southwest also pared its outlook for revenue from each seat flown a mile, saying the benchmark gauge would be little changed in the third quarter even in a best-case scenario. Previously, it said the figure would potentially increase “slightly.”

The natural disasters are compounding other problems that have weakened the financial outlook at U.S. airlines recently, including fare battles, higher fuel costs and feeble demand for pricey, last-minute tickets. Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. all lowered their revenue estimates earlier this month.

Southwest said costs for each available seat flown a mile will increase 3 percent to 4 percent in the current quarter from a year earlier. Previously, the Dallas-based carrier had projected that costs would rise no more than 3 percent.

The shares rose less than 1 percent at 9:54 a.m. in New York. Southwest advanced 12 percent through Wednesday, the biggest gain on a Standard & Poor’s index of the five biggest U.S. airlines.

Flights to Puerto Rico are still limited after the island was battered by Hurricane Maria. Earlier this month, Hurricane Irma pounded Florida and the Caribbean, while two earthquakes in Mexico took more than 400 lives.

United suspended operations at its Houston hub for four days earlier in the quarter and scrubbed more than 7,400 flights because of Hurricane Harvey, the company disclosed earlier this month.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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Travel Marketing Experts Weigh Keeping Brands on TV in a Digital Marketing World


(From left) Julie Cary, CMO of La Quinta; Kathy Tan Mayor, CMO of Carnival Cruise Line; Lisa Ronson, CMO of Tourism Australia, and Skift CEO Rafat Ali. They appeared at the Skift Global Forum in New York City September 27, 2017. Skift

Skift Take: Some travel brands are still hooked on TV and see the value in creating ads for that medium, and then repurposing TV content for other platforms. In those varied other platforms, they can try and reach diverse audiences wherever they watch their content.

— Dan Peltier

Look no further than this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards to signal that TV programming operates in an increasingly competitive environment with streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, for example, raking in several of the top awards at the September 17 awards show.

Travel brand chief marketing officers are watching the rise of streaming and other digital platforms and shifting their marketing budgets as consumer behavior also shifts – but some aren’t slowing down their investment in traditional TV content.

Global companies like TripAdvisor and Expedia’s Trivago will spend millions of dollars on TV advertising this year and some of their ads are among the most recognizable TV ads in certain markets, particularly with Trivago.

La Quinta Inns & Suites, for instance, counts business travelers as a large part of its business and feels that those travelers still find value in TV programming. “Our customer still views a lot of television, said Julie Cary, chief marketing officer of La Quinta, speaking at Skift Global Forum in New York City on September 27. “We’re running a lot of CNN ads because of business travelers. We’re also on Fox News and ESPN.”

Cary said that while La Quinta is very focused on spending on TV, the company is also spending a lot online. “Adapting video assets, from TV to other digital platforms, is critical,” she said.

Carnival Corp. is in a similar bucket with La Quinta and wants to remain relevant to travelers wherever they consume content. Earlier this week, the cruise line launched a digital streaming channel that will be available on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku. “We’re always thinking about entertainment that earns us the right to market,” said Carnival chief marketing officer Kathy Tan Mayor, also speaking at Skift Global Forum.

Tourism Australia chief marketing officer Lisa Ronson said there’s less discussion about TV at her organization, although as a tourism board its goal is to drive business to partners in Australia rather than handle transactions itself.

“We develop film assets that we use in a variety of channels,” said Ronson. “Some 60 to 70 percent of our marketing is digital and our most up-to date stats show that 64 percent of consumers are using video to make their destination decision.”

Influencers Not So Influential?

Tourism Australia was a pioneer in branching out from traditional media and using social media influencers and user-generated content across digital platforms to market the country and grow its market share in long-haul markets. “We’ve absolutely figured out this kind of marketing,” said Ronson. “We’ll be rolling out more youth ambassadors and doing more with them to attract younger audiences to Australia.”

Other brands like Carnival have found that influencers aren’t as influential as they anticipated. “We did some testing of influencers and didn’t see as much success with it as we thought we’d have with it,” said Tan Mayor. “I think we’ll continue to experiment with influencers but right now we’re seeing more success in a more direct way by going to our loyal customers and using their content to tell our story.”

The most-influential online personalities are often everyday cruise passengers, said Tan Mayor. “Influencers are also our guests and our crew,” she said. “Organically we’re seeing that works really well.”

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JetBlue Airplane Redesign Features More Perks But Less Legroom


Passengers board a JetBlue plane. The airline is unveiling its redesign this fall. Bloomberg

Skift Take: People who like what JetBlue offers will still be eager to fly on the airline’s redesigned aircraft. But adding more seats will make the passenger experience a little more cramped.

— Hannah Sampson

JetBlue Airways Corp. has been talking about the first full revamp of its workhorse jetliner for a long time. This fall, almost 18 years since the popular low-cost carrier arrived at airports, it’s finally going to happen, and while there are plenty of bells and whistles to get you oohing and ahhing, there’s a little surprise that may leave you groaning.

Along with a larger, 10-inch touch screen, more than 100 live television channels, and a new link to the aircraft’s Wi-Fi system that lets you watch your own content on the plane’s screen, the new versions of the A320 will also include a dozen more seats squeezed in among the 150 already there.

That’s the picture of a cabin-refresh happening over the next three years. Longer-term, JetBlue wants to get even more stylish with a redesign aimed at creating the perception of larger, more spacious cabins. That effort mirrors some of the design work seen on newer aircraft, such as Bombardier Inc.’s C Series jet and the modern look of bigger, long-haul aircraft from Airbus SE and Boeing Co. The design on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner also trickled down to new cabin styling for its smaller 737 family. Called the Boeing Sky Interior, it was introduced in late 2010. That cabin is now standard on Boeing’s newest single-aisle, the 737 Max.

Airbus meanwhile launched its “Airspace” cabin on A350 and A330neo aircraft before migrating the design to its single-aisle planes, a new product it introduced Tuesday at the APEX Expo conference in Long Beach, Calif.

Over time, the Airspace cabin JetBlue is helping to debut will become the default for the A320 line. It’s the result of almost 18 months of research at airports worldwide “to see what people are really carrying on board,” said Ingo Wuggetzer, vice president of cabin marketing at Airbus. That work, plus discussions with airlines and passenger feedback, discovered three primary areas that needed improvement.

The biggest? Overhead bins, where turf battles often erupt due to travelers’ desire to avoid checking bags (and paying fees). Airbus designers concluded that another approach was needed, so the new bin has 40 percent more volume and no rotating parts, he said. “The overhead storage is not big enough today,” Wuggetzer said. “I think we spent most of the effort in our work to get the size right.”

The cabin entryway will be updated with “more wow” and customization depending on the airline, Wuggetzer said. Mood lights will play a large role in this effort, similar to those seen by anyone who has boarded a Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. or Virgin America flight. The LED lighting system offers roughly 16 million color permutations, so there are many available moods for your flight.

“Passengers boarding from the jetway will sense immediately they’ve left behind the airport hustle and bustle and can relax,” as Boeing put it in a 2009 promotional blurb for its Sky Interior.

Another insight: Passengers perceive airplane bathrooms as dirty, regardless of their actual condition. In response, the new lavatories will also have an array of airline customer options: more mood lighting, faucets that won’t need to be touched to turn on, antibacterial surfaces, and an aroma dispenser. Relaxation is meant to permeate every corner of the fuselage.

But before the relaxing can begin, the seats will be squeezed in. The initial, pre-Airspace A320 project will take about three years to complete and is expected to produce $100 million in financial benefit due to the increased seat count, JetBlue has told investors. As it did with the introduction of a checked-bag fee in 2015, the airline has been inching cautiously toward legroom squeeze—or “cabin densification” in industry lingo. The 12 new seats will reduce seat pitch across the main cabin by 2 inches, to 32 inches, but was planned so JetBlue can still tout “the most legroom in coach” based on average fleet-wide space among U.S. airlines.

Outfitting the planes with 162 seats instead of 150 will also require moving two bathrooms and installing a new galley, engineering work that has slowed the project. That still leaves JetBlue short of the 165-seat plan it set in late 2014 and the 186 seats some carriers have crammed into the same plane.

The airline has 37 Airbus jets scheduled for delivery through 2020, with all but six of those the larger A321 model in the single-aisle Airbus family. Longer term, JetBlue has ordered an additional 65 Airbus planes.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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Aman Hotels Can Deliver the Experiences and Adventure Millennials Crave


Aman Hotel COO Roland Fasel (left) speaking at Skift Global Forum in New York City on September 27, 2017. SkiftX editor Greg Oates is at right. Skift

Skift Take: Why wouldn’t Millennials like Aman Hotels? It’s among the most luxurious operators in the world. But here’s a better question: When they’re paying with their own money, will they still be as happy with the brand?

— Brian Sumers

Conventional wisdom may suggest Aman Hotels — an ultra-luxury global chain where rooms often cost more than $1,000 per night — sells mostly to older travelers. But customers between 18 and 35 years old increasingly fill many of its rooms, the company’s chief operating officer said Wednesday at the Skift Global Forum in New York City.

Many of them, of course, stay at the hotels on a multi-generational trip, likely with parents or grandparents paying the bill. But Aman’s Roland Fasel said a significant number of Millennials seek out the brand’s roughly 30 hotels, in part because they offer access to out-of-the-way places, such as coastal Montenegro, Bhutan, and Angkor Wat. Millennials crave experiential and adventure travel, he said, and Aman’s hotels provide it more than giant global brands like Hilton or Marriott, he argued.

Last year, Fasel said, about 20 percent of Aman’s customers were between 18 and 35. This year, he expects it might be closer to 30 percent.

“There’s no operator in the world that can deliver the access we have,” Fasel said.

But while many brands are implementing strategies to cater to younger travelers, Fasel said Aman has no plans to change what it does. He said Aman’s young customers have the same sense of wanderlust as Baby Boomers, and they want similar things when they travel.

“You have to have a curiosity to want to go to Bali,” he said.

Fasel, a former executive at Dorchester Collection, joined Aman in February, as it continues to enter more markets. He said he expects Aman will have 45 to 48 hotels by 2025, and wants to add more properties in remote areas in South America, where there are few, if any, luxury hotels.

As it expands, Aman will continue to promote experiences it can offer travelers, he said. For years, Aman guests have been able to visit rural villages, trek through local Unesco World Heritage Sites, or enjoy a private tour of local palaces.

Aman has also long had wellness platforms, such as a longevity, rejuvenation and detoxification program at its resort in rural Vietnam.

Other hotels brands now are launching similar adventure, touring and wellness programs, but Fasel noted Aman has had them for years  — well ahead of current trends.

“If we had been able to claim what you think is a trend now 10 or 20 years ago, there would be no question about which brand is doing this,” he said.

Fasel will also help Aman add more city hotels. It opened a hotel in Tokyo recently, and will add one in Shanghai later this year. The Aman brand has become known for intimate service at resort hotels, but the same strategy can work elsewhere, he said.

“Ultimately, with the aura and ethos of welcoming people into your home, it doesn’t make a difference whether you are in a city or at a resort,” he said.

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Ryanair Pilot Drama Will Lead to 2 Million Fewer Passengers in 2017


Ryanair is trying to downplay the impact of its pilot shortage on its business but it’s clear the carrier is taking a hit. Pictured are tails of Ryanair jets with the airline’s livery. Bloomberg

Skift Take: Ryanair’s overall relationship with customers was beginning to get more friendly after decades of stinginess. But it’s clear the airline has a serious hole in its customer service operation that goes beyond its current flight-cancellations dilemma.

— Dan Peltier

Ryanair Holdings Plc will extend flight cancellations into next year while dropping plans to bid for bankrupt Italian carrier Alitalia SpA as it struggles to come to grips with the crisis surrounding a pilot shortage.

Ryanair will operate 25 fewer planes than planned during its winter schedule starting in November, and then 10 fewer from April, it said Wednesday. That will mean canceling 18,000 flights on which about 400,000 passengers have booked. Some 315,000 people had already had travel plans through October disrupted.

Europe’s biggest discount airline has meanwhile informed administrators managing the bankruptcy of Alitalia that it is withdrawing from the bidding in order to “eliminate all management distractions,” according to a statement. Shares of Ryanair rose as much as 3 percent, the biggest gain since before news of the pilot crisis first emerged on Sept. 15.

By scrapping more services Dublin-based Ryanair aims to comply with changes in Irish labor laws requiring it to squeeze a year’s worth of vacation into nine months in 2017 and ensure that there’s no hangover into next year. The groundings will also create spare aircraft and crews so that no further cancellations should be necessary, it said.

All passengers affected by cancellations have been offered “re-accommodation or full refunds,” Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary said in the statement. The cost of free ticket vouchers issued to passengers affected in the new round of cancellations will be about 25 million euros ($29 million), bringing the tally since the start of the crisis to almost 50 million euros.

Fare Slide

Ryanair cautioned that it expects to see a softening in yields or fares over the next two months as it offers a range of seat sales to win back unhappy passengers. Discount carriers operate a reduced schedule during the winter low season, and the company will suspend 11 routes as part of the usual adjustment, it said. The carrier is still forecasting a profit tax of 1.4 billion euros to 1.45 billion euros in the year ending March 31.

All told, Ryanair expects to fly 129 million passengers in 2017, two million fewer than it had once planned, according to the statement. The 2018 total will drop to 138 million from 142 million, it said.

The airline, which has 4,200 pilots, hit back against the likes of Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA over what it said were “false claims” about losing crew to rivals, saying just 100 captains and 160 first officers have left, mainly due to retirement and moves to long-haul operators.

New Recruits

O’Leary said Ryanair has hired 650 more cockpit personnel who will join over the next eight months to help staff another 50 Boeing Co. 737 jets still due to join the fleet by next May. The number of pilots employed per aircraft should increase to 11 from 10.4 over the next 12 year, he added.

A raise of 10,000 euros for captains and 5,000 euros for first officers has also been agreed for pilots stationed at Dublin, London Stansted, Berlin and Frankfurt. The hikes, which will come into effect from Oct. 1, were agreed with staff representatives over the past week, and management will schedule further meetings at other bases over coming months.

Ryanair also disputed claims of an industry-wide pilot shortage, saying it has seen a surge in applications from former Gulf airline crews, as well as from Germany and Italy in the wake of the Alitalia and Air Berlin Plc insolvencies.

The stock traded 2.6 percent higher at 16.85 euros as of 2:51 a.m. in Dublin, boosting gains this year to 16 percent and valuing the company at almost 20 billion euros.

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U.S. Interior Secretary Makes Montana an Exception in Public Lands Debate

Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun  / Associated Press

In this July 30, 2017 file photo, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks during a news conference near Gold Butte National Monument in Bunkerville, Nev. Zinke appears to be carving out an exception for his home state from the Trump administration’s agenda to open more public lands to natural resources development. Zinke wants to curb mining in Montana outside Yellowstone National Park. Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun / Associated Press

Skift Take: The interior secretary is somehow endorsing both natural resources development and public lands conservation, but at the end of the day, many politicians will do anything to get reelected.

— Sarah Enelow

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has closely followed his boss’ playbook, encouraging mining and drilling on public lands and reducing the size of national monuments that President Donald Trump called a “massive land grab” by his Democratic predecessors.

Except, that is, in Montana.

In Zinke’s home state, the former congressman who has long harbored higher political ambitions is recommending Trump create a new national monument out of the forests bordering Glacier National Park, to the disappointment of a company that wants to drill for natural gas there.

A couple hundred miles away, where rocky bluffs line the Missouri River, he decided to leave intact a 590-square-mile (1,528-square-kilometer) monument that for 16 years has stirred the kind of impassioned local opposition that Zinke cited in justifying changes to monuments elsewhere.

And he wants to curb mining along Montana’s border with Yellowstone National Park. That could discourage development of two proposed mines that supporters say would offer higher paying jobs than tourism.

The decision was based on Zinke’s belief that “some places are too precious to mine,” his spokeswoman said last month.

Zinke, a rumored candidate for U.S. Senate in 2018 or governor in 2020, appears to be carving out an exception for Montana from Trump’s agenda to open more public lands to natural resources development. Whether it stems from Montana pride or political ambition in a state where conservation has bipartisan appeal, the results have rankled both sides in the debate over managing millions of acres of public lands in the U.S. West.

“It’s totally favoritism,” said Land Tawney, president of the conservation group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

Tawney is a friend of the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and his group threw its support behind Zinke’s nomination last winter. But he said the interior secretary’s recommendations to scale back four large monuments in the West, including Bears Ears in Utah, represent a “sellout to industry” that’s putting public land and wildlife at risk. Zinke also called for shrinking two marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean.

“We’re happy he recognizes the importance of the Badger-Two Medicine,” Tawney said, referring to the 203-square-mile (526-square-kilometer) area south of Glacier that Zinke recommends be a monument. “Places that are very similar in fashion, like Bears Ears, he’s not quite protecting. … You can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth.”

Zinke spokeswoman Heather Swift declined to comment on how he came to recommend a monument designation for Badger-Two Medicine or whether he was treating public lands in Montana differently than elsewhere.

Of the 27 monuments that Trump in May ordered Zinke to review, the Interior Department so far has publicly identified six that would not be modified in some fashion, including the one in Montana and monuments in Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and California.

Zinke’s recommendations for smaller monuments include a second site in Utah and locations in Nevada and Oregon. He also would allow logging at a Maine monument and more grazing, hunting and fishing at two sites in New Mexico.

In his recommendations to Trump, contained in a recently leaked memo, Zinke noted that the Badger-Two Medicine area is sacred to the Blackfeet tribes of the U.S. and Canada.

Zinke also suggested monument status for two other sites: Camp Nelson in Kentucky, a Union supply depot and hospital where black troops and others trained during the Civil War, and the Jackson, Mississippi home of slain civil rights figure Medgar Evers.

Badger-Two Medicine has been the subject of a long-running dispute between the Blackfeet Tribe, which has a reservation next to the proposed monument, and a Louisiana oil and gas company, Solenex, which wants to drill on the land.

Zinke’s recommendation for the area presents an “optics problem” at a time when the Trump administration has criticized the use of the 1906 Antiquities Act to create monuments, said William Perry Pendley, president of the conservative Mountain States Legal Foundation, which is representing Solenex.

“It’s terribly disappointing,” Pendley said. “What the secretary ought to be sending to the president is a recommendation to repeal the Antiquities Act, to put an end to this issue.”

Pendley compared Zinke’s actions to those of President Bill Clinton in 1996, when he halted a gold mine near Yellowstone, and of the Obama administration last year, when it proposed to end new mining claims on 30,000 acres near the park, which Zinke now supports.

Zinke has made no secret of his political desires. In his first term in the U.S. House, he raised his hand to become speaker but didn’t get chosen after Ohio Rep. John Boehner resigned. Last year, Zinke became an early supporter of Trump and publicly stated his desire to be picked as vice president.

In Montana, he’s been viewed as a potential contender against U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat up for re-election next year whom Republicans consider vulnerable. Analysts say it’s not too late for Zinke to jump in.

Another possibility arises in 2020 when Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, reaches his two-term limit.

Residents in the tiny ranching community of Winifred were disappointed by Zinke’s decision to leave intact the nearby Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, which they have fought since Clinton designated it in January 2001 in one of his last acts in office.

When Trump and Zinke arrived in Washington, they seemed to promise the changes the community long sought, said Ron Poertner, a rancher and member of the group Missouri River Stewards.

“We thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, somebody has finally seen the light and is going to get this monument business right,’” Poertner said.

“But there’s just one person per mile over here and these liberals and big media can out-organize us in a heartbeat,” he said. “If there are any political aspirations, you don’t want to tick off where the strength of voting is in Montana.”


This article was written by Matthew Brown from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

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