Last week, we responded to the possible nomination of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers for Secretary of the Interior. Like just about everyone else, it looks like we were wrong in that prediction, and that developments in the next administration are more fluid than usual.
The latest reports have Rep. Ryan Zinke, a Republican from Montana, as Trump’s almost-certain nomination for Secretary of Interior.
Along with our coalition in Montana, we have worked with Rep. Zinke on public lands and outdoor issues over the last several years. During his time in Congress, Rep. Zinke has become more outspoken about the importance of fighting the public land heist and working to keep public lands public. He has also been a vocal advocate for conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Rep. Zinke has at times been willing to take positions unpopular with his party to defend public lands. Last summer, Zinke resigned his post as a delegate to the Republican nominating convention when the party chose to include a plank about transferring public lands to state governments. Although his overall voting record on this issue has been mixed, he also deserves credit for taking some tough committee votes in support of keeping public lands public. Earlier this summer, Zinke broke party lines to vote against one of two measures that pave the way for privatizing National Forests.
Rep. Zinke has been a strong supporter of fossil fuel development on public lands, including coal mining. In addition, he has been inconsistent on the settled science of climate change. We are interested in how he reconciles these perspectives with his commitment to public lands.
To his credit, Rep. Zinke has been responsive to the outcry of his constituents in Montana about the importance of public lands. As Secretary of Interior, he will be representing the interests of all Americans on public lands, and we hope that he will be similarly responsive if the outdoor community is vocal about our priorities.