By Debbie Gregory.
President-elect Donald Trump has officially nominated Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke the job of interior secretary.
Zinke, 55, a retired Navy SEAL, was an early supporter of Trump. He’s been mentioned as a possible challenger to Montana’s Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018.
Zinke said he is honored by the nomination, describing himself “as someone who grew up in a logging and rail town and hiking in Glacier National Park.”
The Montana congressman pledged to “faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s belief that our treasured public lands are ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.’ I will work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits everyone for generations to come.”
The U.S. Department of the Interior is responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources. The Secretary is a member of the President’s Cabinet.
The department oversees such agencies as the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Survey, and the National Park Service. The Secretary also serves on and appoints the private citizens on the National Park Foundation board.
Because the policies and activities of the Department of the Interior and many of its agencies have a substantial impact in the western United States, the Secretary of the Interior has typically come from a western state (a state lying west of the Mississippi River.)
While Zinke’s nomination drew praise from business groups, environmentalists blasted it.
Independent Petroleum Association of America President and CEO Barry Russell said in a statement. “As a conservationist hailing from the energy-producing state of Montana, Congressman Zinke understands the critical role that the Interior Department plays in balancing the effective management of our nation’s lands and waters with multiple use policies that open access to the public for conservation, recreational opportunities, job-creating economic activities, and safe, responsible energy development.”
Rhea Suh, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that “without a doubt, Rep. Zinke adds another fossil fuel champ to Trump’s a pro-polluter Cabinet. While Zinke has opposed selling off our public lands, his record falls way short of being able to meet the full mission of the Interior Department. That is to manage and protect our wildlife, our public lands and waters, and our cultural heritage for the benefit of all Americans, today and tomorrow. It is also to uphold and honor our responsibilities to indigenous people in America. That is the job and Zinke is the wrong person for the role.”
Trump’ pick will replace former REI CEO & former Mobil Oil engineer Sally Jewell, who was appointed by Barack Obama.