On Thursday morning, President-Elect Donald Trump officially nominated Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke of Whitefish, Montana to serve as the 52nd Secretary of the Interior.
In case you’re a little hazy on the bureaucracy of the executive branch, the Secretary of the Interior oversees the Department of the Interior.
Among other things, the Department of the Interior administers large swaths of public land, including those managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Geological Survey.
The outgoing Secretary is Sally Jewell, the former CEO of REI who made headlines recently when she moved to block a gold mining operation proposed near the border of Yellowstone National Park.
If confirmed by the Senate, Zinke would be in charge of more than 500 million acres of public land. He’ll have to balance the public’s access to those lands with the interests of tourism and outdoor recreation as well as things like cattle grazing and extraction.
As was expected, reactions to the nomination resonated quickly throughout the outdoor industry and the conservation and environmentalists communities.
One by one, conservation groups, environmental advocacy organizations, and outdoor industry representatives from across the country voiced their opinions about a nomination they’ve been cautiously waiting for—some would say dreading—since Donald Trump unexpectedly became president-elect back on November 8th.
Some of these groups have expressed support for the former Navy SEAL, often citing a promise he made in January of 2015 and restated in October to never tolerate the sale of public lands back to the state, a platform embraced by many within his own party.
Supporters also point to Zinke’s life-long interest in hunting and fishing, and the fact that he hails from Montana, a state whose economic lifeblood literally hinges on the more than 94 million acres of public land it contains.
But others have decried his nomination, citing his cozy relationships with extraction industries like oil, gas, and mining, his skeptical view on climate change, and an abysmal three percent lifetime score he received from the League of Conservation Voters.
Here’s a list of some of the loudest voices complete with their official statements on the nomination.
The League of Conservation Voters
“By nominating Rep. Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior, Trump is sending yet another message to Big Polluters that their profits will come first on our public lands. While Rep. Zinke on occasion has broken with his party’s congressional leadership on conservation, it remains to be seen whether as Secretary of the Interior he would truly challenge their anti-parks agenda. His atrocious 3 percent score on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard gives us little confidence that he will stand with the American people over polluters. Indeed, he is a climate denier who supports drilling in the Arctic and continuing outrageous subsidies for dirty energy development on public lands–positions that align with the oil and gas companies that have spent nearly $350,000 on his campaigns. The American people should be alarmed that someone with his anti-environmental record could be responsible for our national parks and wildlife refuges and could promote more dirty and dangerous drilling.”
Outdoor Industry Association
Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and OIAPAC endorsed Zinke in the 2016 election citing his understanding of the outdoor recreation economy and his support for investment in and the protection of America’s public lands and waters. Specifically, Zinke was a co-sponsor of the Outdoor REC Act in the House of Representatives, supports reauthorization and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and co-sponsored the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA), a fix for the fire suppression budgeting issues that dry up federal agencies in years of increasingly devastating forest fires. Zinke also voted for the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act and has taken a vote against the state takeover of public lands. Earlier this year, Zinke resigned from the 2016 Republican Platform Committee at the RNC Convention citing the GOP’s position in support of the selling off of public lands.”
“In nominating Representative Zinke, President-elect Trump has once again chosen someone unsuited for the job at hand. His nomination jeopardizes the places that are so much a part of the American spirit and the backbone of the outdoor recreation economy. Zinke is only able to recognize the importance of programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund a mere 3 percent of the time, while the other 97 percent of the time he’s voted with those that would dismantle, degrade and dispose of our public lands. Being Secretary of the Interior requires someone who will protect our public lands 100 percent of the time.”
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
“Zinke is someone we can work with,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “He’s shown the courage to buck his own party on the issue of selling or transferring public lands that provide 72 percent of Western sportsmen with access to great hunting and fishing. He’s a lifelong outdoorsman, who we’ve found to be receptive to sportsmen’s interests in Montana and D.C. We won’t agree with him on everything, but we think he’s someone who will listen and has the right instincts.”
The Wilderness Society
“We have serious concerns about the nomination of Congressman Zinke, whose repeated support for logging, drilling and mining on cherished public lands is out of step with most Americans. While he has steered clear of efforts to sell off public lands and supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund, far more often Rep. Zinke has advanced policies that favor special interests. His overall record and the backdrop of cabinet nominations with close ties to the fossil fuel industry cause us grave concern. Rep. Zinke has refused to acknowledge that climate change is caused by fossil fuel emissions, while vocally opposing the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce harmful methane emissions. In addition, he has fought efforts to reform coal and voted to scrap environmental safeguards related to logging efforts on national forests.”
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
“Congressman Zinke understands the importance of public lands and balancing management of these important resources with energy development and other uses. As Montana’s lone representative in the House of Representatives, Mr. Zinke has shown himself to be receptive to the interests of a wide range of constituents and a potential ally of sportsmen and other outdoor recreationists.”