Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, is under scrutiny again for his recent travel practices. This time around Zinke ordered a helicopter ride in Nevada and charged the cost of the ride to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Interagency Fire Center even though he didn’t visit fire zones that day, according to ThinkProgress.
Zinke’s $39,295 helicopter ride was charged to the National Interagency Fire Center under the “category of preparedness.” But the National Interagency Fire Center uses such funds to “coordinates federal wildfire fighting resources” such as worker pay and for equipment purchases, according to Newsweek.
Democracy Forward obtained documents regarding the Nevada helicopter trip under the Freedom of Information Act, which revealed an email from a staffer at the Interior Department that confirmed Zinke would not have the allotted time to schedule a visit to a Nevada fire line.
“Ryan Zinke’s caused a lot of controversy with his private flights, but none have been as egregious as using wildfire preparedness funding to pay for a trip that had nothing to do with wildfires, while a wildfire ravaged California,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government watchdog group, tweeted.
While an Interior Department spokesperson admitted Zinke’s recent Nevada helicopter ride “‘was charged to the account in error’ and that the BLM would pay for the helicopter from ‘a more appropriate account,'” Zinke refused to apologize. He took to Twitter stating the recent articles on his helicopter use were “total fabrications.”
But this isn’t the first helicopter ride to come into question, other travel practices by Zinke in 2017 are currently being investigated.
“We are taking a comprehensive look at the secretary’s travel since he took office,” Nancy DiPaolo, the inspector general’s spokeswoman, said in a statement to CNN.