Today, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a confirmation hearing to consider Representative Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior. Zinke was nominated in December to lead the Department of the Interior and, if confirmed, he would be in charge of managing hundreds of millions of acres that belong to all Americans as National Parks, Bureau of Land Management lands and National Wildlife Refuges, as well as conserving western water resources.
Both Zinke and President-elect Trump have previously evoked Theodore Roosevelt, with Zinke a self-described Theodore Roosevelt fan and Trump stating that his Administration would honor the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt. During his presidency, Roosevelt cemented his legacy as conservation hero by establishing 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, four national game preserves, five national parks and 18 national monuments on over 230 million acres of public land.
Todays hearing sheds some early light on the Trump administrations priorities. Most important for sportsmen and women is that the Secretary of Interior champion clean water, healthy habitat, and keeping public lands in public hands” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited.
Regarding the need to keep public lands from being sold or transferred, Rep. Zinke stated: I want to be clear about this: I am absolutely against the transfer or sale of public lands.
In early January, Zinke voted for a rules package that included a provision to make land transfers budget neutralessentially greasing the skids for future public land disposal bills. During today’s hearing, he characterized the provision as an acknowledgement that trust between the federal managers and states is broken and in need of repair. He added that he would have voted against the provision had it been a stand-alone bill.
Being like Roosevelt goes far beyond merely maintaining the corpus of our public land trust, said Wood. Americas public lands need to be managed in ways that ensure we pass them along to the next generation healthier, more productive and more diverse than they are today, so they can better provide healthy fish and wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing opportunities. This Administration will face many challenges that are important to sportsmen and women. Fostering responsible energy development, managing western water in ways that meet the needs of communities while improving fish habitat, and adequately funding our public land management agencies are just a short list.
In todays hearing Rep. Zinke addressed energy development on public lands, saying that he believes in a balanced “all of the above approach,” including wind and solar and using science-based management and safeguards like NEPA to maintain clean air and water.
The challenges facing our public lands are much different than they were 110 years ago during Teddy Roosevelts Administration, but the need for science-based management, citizen involvement, and protecting and restoring fish and wildlife habitat have not changed, Wood continued. If confirmed, we look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Zinke and the agencies he will oversee to ensure that the management of our public lands is guided by these core principles.