NewsAuthor: Steven Shaw
President-elect Donald Trump has selected the person he feels should lead the Department of Interior. It’s being reported that Trump has offered the Secretary of the Interior cabinet position to freshman Montana Congressman and retired Navy Seal Ryan Zinke.
55-year-old Zinke is a fifth-generation Montanan who grew up right outside Glacier National Park. He played football for the University of Oregon and graduated with a degree in Geology.
Zinke is also a retired Navy SEAL, having served from 1986 to 2008, and ending with the rank of Commander. During his his time serving our nation he was awarded two Bronze Stars for service in a combat zone amongst other awards and medals.
Before being elected to Congress in 2014 by a 15 point margin, he served in the Montana State Senate.
On his campaign website, Zinke appears to be against provisions to sell or transfer public lands, but also supports mixed use:
“Whether it’s voting against provisions to sell or transfer public lands…or ensuring mixed use of our beautiful public lands, Ryan knows that it’s our core Montana values that make Montana the Last Best Place.”
In guest column titled “The Case for Conservation” which Rep. Zinke wrote for The Missoulian on April 22, 2016, Zinke reaffirmed his stance on selling off public lands by calling it a “non-starter.” He also notes “I was the only member of the Montana congressional delegation to vote for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”
Perhaps most interesting, Zinke likens himself to Teddy Roosevelt. “I often tell people I’m a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist. Like Teddy, I believe our lands are worth cherishing for the greater good. While there is a lot that separates folks as Republicans and Democrats, there’s also a lot that binds us together as Montanans and Americans. Preserving and conserving our public lands, is one of those values.” Wrote Zinke.
Despite likening himself to Teddy Roosevelt, Zinke is receiving a mixed-bag reaction at best from conservation organizations.
“Last week, President-elect Trump told America he wants to follow in Theodore Roosevelt’s footsteps by conserving America’s parks and public lands. Ryan Zinke has also proclaimed ‘I’m a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist.’ If he’s confirmed as Interior Secretary, Zinke will have to finally choose whether his legacy will be one worthy of Teddy Roosevelt’s respect.” Said Executive Director Jennifer Rokala of the Center for Western Priorities.
The president of The Wilderness Society, Jamie Williams, issued the following statement:
“We have serious concerns about the nomination of Congressman Zinke, whose repeated support for logging, drilling and mining on cherished public lands is out of step with most Americans.
“While he has steered clear of efforts to sell off public lands and supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund, far more often Rep. Zinke has advanced policies that favor special interests. His overall record and the backdrop of cabinet nominations with close ties to the fossil fuel industry cause us grave concern. Rep. Zinke has refused to acknowledge that climate change is caused by fossil fuel emissions, while vocally opposing the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce harmful methane emissions. In addition, he has fought efforts to reform coal and voted to scrap environmental safeguards related to logging efforts on national forests.
"An Interior Secretary must be a strong defender of our national wilderness areas, parks, forests, refuges and grasslands, and ensure the diverse communities that rely upon them have a say in decisions about their use. The Wilderness Society and its members will look for opportunities to work with Mr. Zinke whenever possible, but we will work just as hard to hold him accountable and fight tirelessly for conservation and stewardship of our shared heritage.”
Zinke has yet to publicly acknowledge if he has accepted the position. If he does, he will replace Obama administration Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell.