Zinke is promoting true conservation at Department of Interior
© Greg Nash

It’s a new era at the Department of Interior thanks to Secretary Ryan Zinke’s leadership. 

Zinke, who started his first day on the job on horseback flanked by U.S. Park Police, is the first Montanan to lead the agency. His reverence for angling, hunting and the outdoors means that he is promoting true conservation in his new post instead of preservation.

Conservation is seen as the proper use of nature, while preservation aims to protect nature from any use. The latter philosophy has prevented Americans from fully enjoying opportunities in nature. True conservation entails protecting America’s waterways and wildlife without denying opportunities to explore them or safely develop nearby. How can Americans be good stewards of the environment if they are prevented from accessing it or working to make it better for their livelihoods? Secretary Zinke hopes to fill this void created by his predecessors.


Thus far, Zinke’s leadership has resulted in the enactment of numerous conservation policies. For example, he signed two secretarial orders to undue missteps like the reversal of Order 219, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decree that banned lead tackle and ammunition on USFWS-protected lands. As a result of his efforts, over 100 outdoor industry leaders across fishing, shooting sports, hunting, archery, camping, marine, motorcycle, powersports, hospitality and recreation vehicle sectors have praised him for keeping the “great” in the Great Outdoors.

 “In his first 100 days in office, President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP-Trump trade fight boils over with threat to cars Trump: Meetings on potential North Korea summit going 'very well' Freed American 'overwhelmed with gratitude' after being released from Venezuela MORE is setting an agenda to emphasize and prioritize outdoor recreation on federal lands, highlighted by selecting ... Zinke as secretary to lead the Department of the Interior,” the letter said. “Secretary Zinke, a strong supporter of the $887 billion outdoor recreation industry, is working closely with the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable to increase access to recreational opportunities and enjoyment on all federal lands and waters.”

In late April, Zinke vowed to make his department the “Happy Department,” a response to historic mistrust of public land officials by a majority of Americans. It's the right step, because the Interior shouldn’t be controversial or hostile to Americans. It should work in sync with them.

"The view from the Potomac is a lot different than from the view of the Colorado. And that's part of the problem and why the West is a little angry and distrustful," said Zinke. "The president has made it clear he wants to listen to local communities and the state. My job is to be an advocate, nice, helpful, friendly. We want to be the yep department and diffuse some of the anger."

Here’s how Zinke is promoting true conservation at the Department of Interior so far.

Secretary Zinke said early on that he won’t be selling off all public lands to the highest bidder. In fact, he’s already living up to his promises. He issued several secretarial orders to increase opportunities to hunt on public lands and designate more wetlands for conservation. How can Americans enjoy public lands if they are shielded off from them?

Secretary Zinke is offering to be transparent with regards land management — especially out West. He announced that his department is reviewing up to 27 monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906 and asking for public input of them — especially in wake of the controversial Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. The secretary has stressed that no monument will be stripped of a designation, nor will any environmental or conservation regulations on land and in marine areas be loosened.

Secretary Zinke is also working to making business and the environment work more in concert with one another. He said good stewardship of land and water paired with responsible offshore development aren’t mutually exclusive. He’s correct. You cannot have a healthy environment without a healthy business climate.

The previous administration practiced preservation by attempting to cut off fishing and hunting opportunities on public lands, pitting businesses against the environment, and making the safe exploration of oil and gas the enemy.

It’s encouraging to see Secretary Zinke promote true conservation at the Department of Interior. Let’s hope he fulfills his goal of making it the “Happy Department.”

Gabriella Hoffman (@Gabby_Hoffman) is a conservative media strategist and consultant based in Northern Virginia. She worked previously for the nonprofit Leadership Institute.

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