Trump picks GOP Rep. Zinke for Interior secretary

Trump picks GOP Rep. Zinke for Interior secretary
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President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCoast Guard chief: 'Unacceptable' that service members must rely on food pantries, donations amid shutdown Dem lawmaker apologizes after saying it's never been legal in US to force people to work for free Grassley to hold drug pricing hearing MORE announced Thursday that Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) would be his nominee for Interior secretary.

The official announcement came two days after sources close to Trump’s transition team said the freshman congressman had been offered the job.

As head of the 70,000-employee Interior Department, Zinke would oversee most of the United States’ federal land, along with wildlife, parks, offshore drilling, American Indian tribal relations and more.

“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,” he continued.

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“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. At the same time, my administration’s goal is to repeal bad regulations and use our natural resources to create jobs and wealth for the American people, and Ryan will explore every possibility for how we can safely and responsibly do that.”

Zinke is an avid hunter, fisherman and hiker, and said he is committed to both properly caring for public lands and making the best use of them.

“I will work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits everyone for generations to come,” he said. “Most important, our sovereign Indian Nations and territories must have the respect and freedom they deserve. I look forward to making the Department of Interior and America great again.”

Trump promised on the campaign trail to protect the country’s landscapes, natural resources and wildlife habitats.
 
But public lands and offshore areas are also a major piece of the president-elect's energy agenda, which he promises will open large swaths of federal land and the outer continental shelf to oil, natural gas and coal extraction.
 
He said he would quickly stop the Interior Department’s moratorium on new coal-mining leases on federal land — a top target of Zinke's in Congress — and to stop the stream buffer zone rule for coal mining.
 
Republicans and fossil fuel interests were pleased with Zinke’s nomination.
 
“As a member of the Natural Resources Committee, he has been an ardent supporter of all-of-the-above energy policies and responsible land management,” said House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAs new Congress begins, federal-state connections are as important as ever Trump once asked Paul Ryan why he couldn’t be ‘loyal': book AEI names Robert Doar as new president MORE (R-Wis.). “And as a Westerner with close to one third of his state owned by the federal government, he is intimately familiar with how Washington’s decisions affect people’s lives.”
 
The Independent Petroleum Association of American was confident Zinke would address the industry’s priorities.
 
“Nobody values the importance of public land use better than a Westerner,” said Barry Russell, the group’s president. “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.”
 
Conservation groups had more mixed reactions to Zinke.
 
Collin O’Mara, president the National Wildlife Federation, said Zinke understood the need to preserve public places and wildlife.
 
“By offering Rep. Ryan Zinke — a sportsman and proponent of keeping public lands public and investing in conservation — the position of Secretary of the Interior, President-elect Trump is signaling that he intends to keep his promises to America’s hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts,” O’Mara said. “Rep. Zinke has opposed efforts to sell off America’s public lands and has supported investing in wildlife conservation and reauthorizing the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.”
 
But the nonprofit environmental group Defenders of Wildlife sees Zinke’s record as a major threat to public land.
 
“Rep. Zinke’s legislative record reveals an alarming pattern of hostility toward wildlife and public lands during his short career as a congressman,” said Jamie Rappaport, the Defenders’ president. “Rep. Zinke has consistently supported harmful, anti-wildlife legislation that would severely undermine the Endangered Species Act and remove or block protections for hundreds of imperiled species, including gray wolves and greater sage-grouse.”
 
Updated 10:44 a.m.