Trump Officially Nominates Zinke to Lead Interior

Zinke accepts position to oversee nation's federal lands, natural resources

By Associated Press & Beacon Staff
Former state Sen. Ryan Zinke of Whitefish waves to voters at the Flathead County Fairgrounds on Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Updated: Dec. 15, 9:30 a.m.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump has officially chosen Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke to serve as his interior secretary.

Zinke was an early supporter of Trump’s and publicly sought a Cabinet post when Trump visited Montana in May.

“He has built one of the strongest track records on championing regulatory relief, forest management, responsible energy development and public land issues,” Trump said in a statement. “As a former Navy SEAL, he has incredible leadership skills and an attitude of doing whatever it takes to win. America is the most beautiful country in the world and he is going to help keep it that way with smart management of our federal lands.”

Trump’s decision to tap Zinke for interior upends Senate Republican plans of recruiting the congressman to challenge two-term Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018. Zinke was recently reelected for a second termin the U.S. House of Representatives.

“As inscribed in the stone archway of Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Montana, I shall faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s belief that our treasured public lands are ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people,’” Zinke said in a statement released by Trump transition team. “I will work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits everyone for generations to come. Most important, our sovereign Indian Nations and territories must have the respect and freedom they deserve.”

The Interior Department has responsibility for energy leases on millions of acres of federal lands and waters around the U.S., as well as for conservation of national parks and forests.

As with several other Trump Cabinet nominees, Zinke has advocated for increased energy drilling and mining on public lands and expressed skepticism about the urgency of climate change.

“I’m a Teddy Roosevelt Republican,” Zinke told the Beacon in January 2015 after starting his Congressional tenure. “We live in Montana for a reason, because we enjoy clean water, clean air and the outdoors. But it has to be about multiple use and not single use. I think we have lost our way in a lot of ways. We can mine and drill and still be responsible stewards of the land we cherish. Coal, oil and natural gas are going to be part of our energy picture for a long time and there is no doubt when it comes to energy that Montana has an important role to play.”

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock issued a statement early Thursday on Zinke’s nomination.

“I want to congratulate Congressman Ryan Zinke,” the Democrat said. “Montanans know how important the U.S. Department of Interior is to protecting our natural resources and outdoor heritage and it is reassuring that a Western voice is being advanced for a post that is critical for Western states. As Governor and Chair of the Western Governors Association, I look forward to ensuring that our states’ interests are reflected in Washington, D.C. – from our public lands to national parks and natural resource development, among other areas. ”

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, issued a statement on the nomination.

“I want to congratulate Congressman Zinke on this high honor,” Tester said. “I’m pleased the President-elect nominated someone from the west for a post that’s critically important to Montana’s outdoor economy and way of life. I look forward to sitting down with Congressman Zinke to discuss how we can increase public access to public land, protect our Constitutional right to clean air and water, and uphold our trust responsibilities to Indian Country.”

Agencies in the Department of the Interior:
— National Park Service
— Fish and Wildlife Service
— Bureau of Indian Affairs
— Bureau of Land Management
— Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement
— Bureau of Reclamation
— Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement
— Geological Survey

This story will be updated when more information becomes available.