Political Editors / December 14, 2016

Trump Looks to the Big Sky for Interior Choice

Ryan Zinke is pro-energy and pro-federal lands.

Donald Trump’s final choice for secretary of the Interior Department is Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), not Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) as was previously reported. So, given the last-minute mind change, who is Ryan Zinke?

Zinke is a former Navy SEAL (1986-2008) who recently won his second term as the lone congressional representative from the state of Montana. He’s a life-long hunter and fisherman who has staunchly defended public access to federal lands. So much so that he resigned as a delegate from the Republican National Convention over his disagreement with the party platform on federal lands. He said at the time, “What I saw was a platform that was more divisive than uniting.” Unfortunately, by that he means turning federal lands over to the states is bad. For this reason, Zinke has been described by some as a “Theodore Roosevelt Republican.”

That said, he has a strong record on advocating for an environmentally responsible energy policy that supports coal extraction and gas and oil drilling. He has criticized Barack Obama’s restrictive energy policies, too. Regarding the Interior Department’s rule that aimed to limit methane from oil and gas operations on federal land, Zinke said, “Clean air and clean water are absolute top priorities when we talk about responsible energy development. However, the final rule issued by the Obama administration does nothing to further protect our resources. This rule is a stark reminder that we need to invest in infrastructure projects like the Keystone pipeline, so we don’t need to flare excess gas.”

Given the vast amount of land — beyond national parks — owned and managed by the feds, Zinke will have a big influence on how that land is used. Recall that the major expansion in energy exploration over the last eight years occurred in spite of Obama essentially placing public land off limits. Let’s also hope Zinke can manage it without Obama’s social engineering.

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