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Controversial Interior Secretary Makes His Rounds In The West With Stop At Days Of 47 Rodeo

Three men in cowboy hats stand in a row at rodeo.
Judy Fahys / KUER
Zinke, far right, stopped at the Days of 47 Rodeo today and read a Pioneer Day message from the White House.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Mormon pioneers "an inspiration for all Americans" at the Days of 47 Rodeo Tuesday night in Salt Lake City while also making an oblique reference to ongoing investigations into his conduct.

In a brief public appearance at the State Fairpark, the former Montana congressman praised President Trump and Utahns alike for valuing religious freedom. Zinke also read aloud a presidential message the White House issued earlier in the day commemorating Pioneer Day.

Zinke also seemed to mention his own mounting ethics troubles, which include nearly a dozen investigations into real estate deals, improperly using taxpayer money to fund travel and other conflicts of interest. He compared his current cabinet position to his former role as a Navy SEAL commander.

"I'd say actually being a SEAL was easier, because as a SEAL when people shot at you could shoot back," he said.

In introducing Zinke to the rodeo audience, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said the Interior Secretary is a good steward of the land, noting that the Interior Department is oversees almost half of the 53 million acres within the state's boundaries.

"He has pledged to safely, responsibly protect America's public lands," Herbert said, "while ensuring that America's public, natural resources continue to create jobs and wealth for the American people."

Zinke led the Parade of Champions on a chestnut-colored quarter horse named Cowboy. He did not take questions from the news media.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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