President-elect nominates Rep. Zinke for Interior Secretary

By Emily Ronis

Congressman Ryan Zinke speaking at an event in Maryland. ©Gage Skidmore

On Dec. 16, President-elect Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior.

A hunter and fisherman, Zinke has often supported sportsmen issues and accessible public lands since taking office in 2014. He voted across party lines when he opposed the State National Forest Management Act of 2015 (H.R. 3650), which would allow states to acquire up to 2 million acres of national forest land to be used primarily for timber production and closed to public access. In July, Zinke also resigned from the Republican nominating convention after the party’s platform endorsed transferring federal public lands to the state.

“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 in response to the nomination. “I shall faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s belief that our treasured public lands are ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.’”

The Congressman also supported the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act (H.R. 2406), or SHARE Act, that would expand opportunities for and access to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting.

“He’s a lifelong outdoorsman, who we’ve found to be receptive to sportsmen’s interests in Montana and D.C. We won’t agree with him on everything, but we think he’s someone who will listen and has the right instincts,” said Whit Fosburg, CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, in a statement.

Zinke has also supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a fund that uses offshore oil and gas revenues to acquire and conserve natural resource areas across the nation. Zinke was the only Republican member of the House Natural Resources Committee to vote in favor of LWCF’s permanent reauthorization and cosponsored the bill (H.R. 1814) that would provide for the reauthorization.

While generally supportive of sportsmen and public lands, Zinke has only a 3 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters, and some groups have voiced concerns over the nomination.

Zinke has “repeatedly voted to block efforts to designate new national parks that would diversify the National Park System,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association, in a statement. The Center for Biological Diversity is concerned about Zinke’s stance on threatened and endangered species, stating that “his brief political career has been substantially devoted to attacking endangered species and the Endangered Species Act.”

Per the cabinet appointment process, President-elect Trump will submit a written nomination to the Senate after taking office in Jan. 2017. The appropriate committees will deliberate on the nomination and report back to the entire chamber, recommending the nominee favorably, unfavorably, or taking no action. The Senate will then vote to confirm or reject the nomination.

The Congressman hails from Whitefish, Montana and earned his undergraduate degree in geology from the University of Oregon. He served the country as a Navy S.E.A.L. for 23 years and was elected to the House of Representatives in 2014 as Montana’s at-large representative. He sits on the House Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.

Emily Ronis is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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