President-elect Donald Trump has selected Montana Republican Ryan Zinke, the congressman who has held Montana’s at-large congressional seat for one term, to serve as his Interior Secretary.
Zinke, who now sits on the House Natural Resources Committee and the Armed Services Committee studied geology at the University of Oregon and was a Navy Seal from 1986 to 2008, is an avid hunter and fisher. .
The political history of the 55-year-old congressman includes frequent votes against environmentalists issues related to coal extraction and oil and gas drilling. During his one year in office, Zinke has a 3 percent voting rating from the League of Conservation Voters.
In an October 23rd, 2015 interview with Zinke in Indian Country Today, the congressman voiced support for Indian nations, particularly tribes in Montana.
“Tribal sovereignty and respect is an important part in federal recognition. Tribal government must be seen as a relationship of equals. Sovereignty means something. The Blackfeet Tribe has earned its status as a warrior nation. Many military veterans come from their people who have defended the United States. That status is very clear to me as a former unit commander. It cannot be overlooked … I can tell you that the government, the federal government, has infringed on the sovereignty of our tribes to develop their own natural resources. What is sovereignty? Sovereignty is not going through a labyrinth of rules that are far greater than other federal lands or state lands. It’s not right,” said Zinke.
The Department of the Interior oversees the management of more than 500 million acres of federal public lands, including close to 400 national parks, federal monuments, numerous dams and reservoirs. It is also the department that heads the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
"I'm always reminded of that old joke that it doesn't matter who's elected president of the United States; it matters in the West when the secretary of interior is appointed," said ICMN’s Mark Trahant to NPR, a professor at the University of North Dakota.
"That's the person who has the most direct say over our lives."
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