Trump taps Zinke to lead In­te­rior

Lat­est pick to move fo­cus from cli­mate change

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

Round­ing out a team that’s poised to ramp up en­ergy ex­plo­ration on fed­eral lands and move away from a fo­cus on cli­mate change, Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day of­fi­cially tapped Rep. Ryan Zinke to head the In­te­rior De­part­ment.

The se­lec­tion of Mr. Zinke, an ex-Navy SEAL com­man­der and first-term Repub­li­can rep­re­sent­ing Mon­tana’s at-large con­gres­sional district, de­lighted GOP lead­ers and oil-and-gas groups while in­fu­ri­at­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists who vowed to op­pose the nom­i­na­tion. The pick also comes as some­thing of a po­lit­i­cal sur­prise; Mr. Trump re­port­edly was lean­ing to­ward Rep. Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers of Wash­ing­ton for the job as re­cently as last week­end.

She met with Trump transition team of­fi­cials Mon­day, and while it’s un­clear ex­actly what tran­spired dur­ing that meet­ing, news that Mr. Trump would se­lect Mr. Zinke be­gan to leak out shortly af­ter­wards.

As was the case with his picks for the En­ergy De­part­ment and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, Mr. Trump is mak­ing clear his ad­min­is­tra­tion will fa­vor do­mes­tic en­ergy pro­duc­tion over cli­mat­e­change reg­u­la­tions, and the pres­i­den­t­elect said Thurs­day he be­lieves fed­er­ally owned lands are ripe for de­vel­op­ment.

Mr. Zinke “has in­cred­i­ble lead­er­ship skills and an at­ti­tude of do­ing what­ever it takes to win. 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,” Mr. Trump said in a state­ment. “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.”

If con­firmed, Mr. Zinke would over­see a vast port­fo­lio that in­cludes one-fifth of the U.S. sur­face land (more than 500 mil­lion acres) in­clud­ing Amer­ica’s na­tional parks and mon­u­ments, and would reg­u­late en­ergy ex­plo­ration on fed­eral land. The In­te­rior sec­re­tary also is the key govern­ment li­ai­son with Amer­i­can In­dian tribes.

Mr. Zinke also is the lat­est in a trend of In­te­rior sec­re­taries hail­ing from West­ern states. Pres­i­dent Obama’s first In­te­rior sec­re­tary, Ken Salazar, pre­vi­ously served as a U.S. se­na­tor from Colorado. Mr. Salazar was re­placed by Sally Jewell, the for­mer CEO of Wash­ing­ton-based out­door com­pany REI.

In his own state­ment, Mr. Zinke took shots at his pre­de­ces­sors and vowed to make the In­te­rior De­part­ment “great again,” a spin on Mr. Trump’s fa­mous cam­paign slo­gan.

“I will work tire­lessly to en­sure our pub­lic lands are man­aged and pre­served in a way that ben­e­fits ev­ery­one for gen­er­a­tions to come,” the con­gress­man said. “I look for­ward to mak­ing the De­part­ment of In­te­rior and Amer­ica great again.”

Pow­er­ful en­vi­ron­men­tal groups al­ready had vowed to mount an ag­gres­sive fight against for­mer Texas Gov. Rick Perry, tapped to be en­ergy sec­re­tary, and Ok­la­homa At­tor­ney Gen­eral Scott Pruitt, the pend­ing head of the EPA, dur­ing up­com­ing con­gres­sional con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings. The case of Mr. Zinke will be no dif­fer­ent.

“Pub­lic lands are held in trust for all of us and should be man­aged as an in­vest­ment in the fu­ture,” Michael Brune, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Sierra Club, said in a state­ment. “Yet, Zinke is firmly in the past, cling­ing to plans to mine, drill and log pub­lic lands to ben­e­fit cor­po­rate pol­luters, sup­port­ing dan­ger­ous and dirty projects like the Key­stone XL pipeline, and op­pos­ing ef­forts to clean up our air.”

Other crit­ics say Mr. Trump and Mr. Zinke will de­grade fed­eral lands through en­ergy ex­plo­ration, rev­ers­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s tack of clos­ing down fed­eral prop­erty for drilling and min­ing.

“Pres­i­dent Obama and Sec­re­tary Jewell have left a sterling le­gacy of en­vi­ron­men­tal progress, and Rep. Zinke will be tasked with ei­ther de­fend­ing that le­gacy or un­rav­el­ing it. It seems abun­dantly clear which path Pres­i­dent-elect Trump would pre­fer he take,” said Bradley Camp­bell, pres­i­dent of the Con­ser­va­tion Law Foun­da­tion.

Top Repub­li­cans say Mr. Zinke, a noted out­doors­man who serves on the House Nat­u­ral Re­sources Com­mit­tee, is an ideal choice for the post.

“He has been an ar­dent sup­porter of all-of-the-above en­ergy poli­cies and re­spon­si­ble land man­age­ment. 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,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rep. Ryan Zinke has been tapped to head the In­te­rior De­part­ment. Mr. Zinke would over­see a vast port­fo­lio that in­cludes one-fifth of the U.S. sur­face land in­clud­ing Amer­ica’s na­tional parks and mon­u­ments, and would reg­u­late en­ergy ex­plo­ration on fed­eral land.

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