Trump Officially Taps Zinke for Interior Secretary

One-term Montana congressman is retired Navy SEAL

In making his announcement of Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke to serve as Interior secretary, President-elect Donald Trump touted his focus on energy and minerals policy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, a geologist and former Navy SEAL, is President-elect Donald Trump's choice for Secretary of the Interior, the transition team announced Thursday. 

Zinke, 55, retired as a Navy commander in 2008 after more than two decades in the service, and was elected to Congress in 2014 to represent Montana's at-large district. He is a member of the Committees on Armed Services and Natural Resources.

In a statement released by Trump’s transition team, the President-elect touted Zinke’s focus on energy and minerals policy.

“He has built one of the strongest track records on championing regulatory relief, forest management, responsible energy development and public land issues,” Trump said of his nominee.

“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.”

The interior secretary is responsible for the nation’s public lands, water and natural resources and oversees the Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Safety and Environmental Enforcement, among others. 

In the past, Zinke has been critical of the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations forcing coal-using power plants to cut emissions or risk being shut down.

Zinke’s aversion to such rules falls in line with his new boss and fellow cabinet nominees former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for Energy secretary and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who was tapped to head the EPA. 

Zinke said he was “humbled,” to be chosen and vowed to uphold the sovereign rights of Native American tribes. 

“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.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan quickly expressed support for Trump’s decision. 

“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,” Ryan said of his fellow House Republican. “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 Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi responded adversely, accusing Zinke and Republicans of being beholden to special interests.

“With Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke’s nomination to lead the Interior Department, President-elect Trump is signaling open season for corporations and private interests eager to lay waste to our public lands,” Pelosi said.

Both Zinke and Pelosi invoked the name of former President Theodore Roosevelt in their statements on the impending nomination. 

The 26th president was a famous champion of conservation and national parks, creating quite a few during his administration. 

Zinke was re-elected in November, so his appointment would open up Montana’s at-large congressional seat.

[Zinke’s Appointment Would Open up Montana At-Large Seat]

Trump was also reportedly considering Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., for the Interior job. 

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