President Elect Donald Trump has reportedly asked Montana U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke to be the nation’s next Interior Secretary. The Interior Secretary is tasked with the conservation and management of federal lands, national parks, and natural resources in the United States.
Zinke was an early supporter of Trump. As a member of congress, he has supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund and keeping public lands under federal control, but is also a proponent of logging and energy development on those lands.
Jeff Laszlo, chairman of the Western Landowners Alliance and a rancher from Montana, called Zinke an appropriate choice for Secretary of the Interior.
“I know that he has a deep connection to our state and our lands, including public lands,” said Laszlo. “He’s an outdoorsman and a hunter, and I think that both his political backgrounds and his interests put him in a position to understand the complexities of managing those lands.”
Other groups, like the National Parks Conservation Association and the Northern Plains Resource Council, have been more hesitant over Zinke’s selection.
“I think we have some concern around his position around oil and gas development on public lands,” said Bart Melton, the Northern Rockies Regional Director for National Parks Conservation Association.
“We want to be sure on issues like methane gas control he stays strong, and park ecosystems are protected.”
Melton said if Zinke is confirmed, he hopes he will make protecting National Parks a priority, for both environmental and economic reasons.
“In Wyoming and Montana we know that Grand Teton and Yellowstone are big economic drivers, and it’s really important that we make sure those places are always left better than how we found them,” Melton said.
Last week, Washington U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers was widely rumored to be Trump’s top pick for the job, and Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis was once thought to be a strong contender, as well.