Congressman Ryan Zinke is from Montana, a state where over a third of the land is controlled by the Interior Department. Needless to say, Zinke probably knows a thing or two about the department. Plus he’s AWESOME! Isn’t he a great addition to the team?
Ryan Zinke, a Congressman from Montana made no secret of his ambitions to join a Donald Trump Cabinet, yet his nomination as Interior secretary is in some ways an unlikely fit for the retired U.S. Navy SEAL.
Zinke, 55, was an early supporter of the president-elect and publicly expressed his interest in a Cabinet post when Trump visited Montana in May.
Like other Western states, Montana’s wide-open, rugged landscape has a huge federal presence. The Interior Department and other U.S. agencies control almost a third of its land and even more of the underground ‘mineral estate’ that holds vast amounts of coal, oil and natural gas.
As with several other Trump Cabinet nominees, Zinke has advocated for increased energy drilling and mining on those lands and expressed skepticism about the urgency of climate change.
The Republican lawmaker also has been a vocal supporter of keeping public lands in the government’s hands. That’s a central political issue in Montana, where hunting and fishing access is considered sacrosanct.
The president-elect’s son Donald Jr. is an avid hunter and was in Montana on a hunting trip last month. That may have given Zinke an advantage over another lawmaker Trump was said to have considered for the Interior post, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. She wrote on Facebook Tuesday that it had been an ‘honor’ to be invited to meet with Trump.
Zinke met with Trump on Monday in New York, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. A person close to Zinke confirmed the Tuesday offer.
He hadn’t yet accepted when he left Tuesday for his home in the mountain town of Whitefish, Montana, according to two of those people. All three insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the transition process publicly.
Energy development, land management and hunting fall under the Interior Department’s jurisdiction. However, those were second-tier issues for Zinke during his successful re-election campaign this fall against Democrat Denise Juneau.