The Interior Department needs new management
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There are few federal agencies that will benefit more from an “Under New Management” banner than the Department of the Interior.  Representative Ryan Zinke’s confirmation hearing wrapped this past week, and there should be no hesitation by the Senate in swiftly confirming him as Secretary of the Interior.

Now, more than ever, the Department of the Interior is in need of someone like Zinke, a strong, decisive leader who believes in both duties of the Department — protecting our national treasures and overseeing responsible development of our natural resources.

Equally important, our states, local governments, and Indian nations need a partner who can restore trust in Washington as a responsible steward of our federally owned lands.

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The federal government owns an incredible 20 percent of the land in the United States.

And less than a month ago, President Obama increased federally owned land again by adding 1.35 million acres in Utah and another 300,000 acres in Nevada when he designated them as national monuments.

Under the Obama Presidency, the federal government added 29 new national monuments and 553 million acres of land and water across the U.S. to the jurisdiction of the National Parks system under the Department of the Interior.

In the years ahead, the Interior Department’s priority must be solving the glaring problems in front of them before overextending further. Under the Obama Administration, the federal government has been a poor steward of the land it manages as well as a poor partner in balancing the need for environmental stewardship, common sense, and responsible job creation.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, is ideally suited to tackle the $12.5 billion issue facing the department just in estimated expenses for repairing and up-keeping our nation’s parks and public lands as well as following through on his commitment to restore trust with states, Indian tribes, and local communities.

Under President Obama, the Department of the Interior took government overreach to new heights. State legislators in Colorado have seen their public lands, hiking trails, and forests mismanaged by out-of-touch administrators in Washington, D.C. for the last eight years.  And they are not the only ones; legislators in states across the West have repeatedly pushed for increased influence over the mismanaged federally — owned land in their states.

We need an effective leader like Zinke, to solve this lack of faith and over-regulation. Our state and local governments desperately need a Secretary of the Interior who will listen to their concerns — and not reach for the regulatory pen first.

During his confirmation hearing last week, Zinke’s comments assured that American’s will not be shortchanged — neither on the preservation and maintenance of our national parks nor in the responsible development of natural resources that provide ample opportunity for economic growth in job sectors that desperately need it.

And yes, It is possible to advocate for the preservation of public lands for recreation while responsibly overseeing the production of natural resources like oil and gas that is found under much of the federal government’s holdings.

Zinke served as a Montana state senator for two years as Chair of the Senate Education Committee advocating for local control of the state’s schools — not the federal government. His leadership and first-hand experiences in dealing with the federal government’s overreach will be invaluable. Zinke is sure to continue his appreciation for separation of powers and state sovereignty as Secretary of the Interior.

During his testimony, Zinke clearly iterated his ability to drive and incentivize collaboration between the federal government and state and local governments.

He also stated that like former President Teddy Roosevelt, (often called the “conservation President,”) we must think big and bold, and prepare for the future.

Jessica Curtis is the executive director of GOPAC, which is dedicated to educating and electing a new generation of Republican leaders.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.