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Tuesday, June 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Zinke approved as Interior secretary; most groups supportive

Ryan Zinke (Associated Press)
Ryan Zinke (Associated Press)

PUBLIC LANDS -- The Senate has confirmed Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke as Interior secretary, responsible for more than 400 million acres of public land, mostly in the West.  Groups ranging from conservation-oriented to the NRA are voicing support for Zinke, or at least are maintaining a hopeful stance. 

Conservationists are applauding his previous comments in support of maintaining access to federal public lands.

The Republican-controlled Senate approved Zinke’s nomination today, 68-31.

Zinke, a Republican in his second term as Montana’s sole House member, advocates a multiple-use model for federal land management that allows hiking, hunting, fishing and camping along with harvesting timber, mining for coal and drilling for oil and natural gas.

Zinke also pledges to tackle an estimated $12 billion backlog in maintenance and repair at national parks and stand firm against attempts to sell, give away or transfer federal lands.

But the lengths he might go to cash in on natural resources concerns some groups.

“Adding Ryan Zinke to Trump's polluter cabinet puts our lands, and precious resources at risk," said  Sharon Buccino, of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The Department's mission is to manage and protect our wildlife, our cultural heritage, and the lands and waters owned by all Americans.  Zinke is a champion of dirty energy.  He supports increasing logging, drilling and mining on public land, and the removal of key environmental safeguards.  His record suggests he will not put the public interest first as a steward of our natural resources.”

"The National Rifle Association congratulates Secretary Ryan Zinke on his confirmation as the 52nd Secretary of the Interior," said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.  "The confirmation of an avid outdoorsman to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior marks the end of a hostile era towards hunters and sportsmen," he said in an easily argued overstatement of the job done by past Interior secretaries. "The NRA looks forward to working with Secretary Zinke in the pursuit of true conservation that respects the rights of America’s outdoorsmen and women."

Zinke, 55, a former Navy SEAL and Montana state senator, resigned as a delegate to the Republican National Convention last year to protest the GOP’s position in favor of land transfers to state or private groups.

Still, his stance on public lands has come into question after he voted in favor of a House rule that would allow federal land transfers to be considered cost-free and budget-neutral.

Montana Wilderness association executive director Brian Sybert notes that Zinke has called himself a "Roosevelt conservationist" on multiple occasions. "We will certainly hold him accountable if he does not live up to that definition," Sybert said. "In Montana, living up to that definition will mean keeping public lands in public hands, protecting places as wild and culturally significant as the Badger-Two Medicine, and not attempting to gut or harm the Antiquities Act, a central pillar of Roosevelt's legacy."

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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