President-elect Donald Trump has chosen GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke as secretary of the Department of the Interior, The Washington Post reported, citing a person familiar with matter.
Zinke served as a Navy SEAL from 1986 to 2008. He studied geology as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon.
Zinke has represented Montana’s at-large congressional seat for one term. He served as a member of the Montana Senate, representing Senate District 2 from 2009 to 2011. Zinke is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, as well as the Armed Services Committee.
The Interior Department is responsible for about three-quarters of federal land and natural resources, along with programs relating to American Indian and territorial affairs.
Zinke supports coal, oil and gas exploration and development. He has established a 3% rating with the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group. However, he is a strong advocate of preserving open spaces and environment.
Recently, Zinke criticized an Interior Department rule to curb inadvertent releases of methane from oil and gas operations on federal land.
“Clean air and clean water are absolute top priorities when we talk about responsible energy development, however the final rule issued by the Obama administration does nothing to further protect our resources,” Zinke said in a statement. “This rule is a stark reminder that we need to invest in infrastructure projects like the Keystone pipeline, so we don’t need to flare excess gas.”
The 55-year-old Zinke is against the transfer of federal land ownership to the states. He is in a favor of public access to federal lands. Zinke opposed a measure by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) that would have allowed each state to buy up to 2 million in U.S. Forest Service land to boost timber production.
On Monday, Zinke met with Trump at Trump Tower in New York, reported.
Zinke was described as “a strong advocate for American energy independence” by Trump’s communications director Jason Miller, who said that Zinke “supports an all-encompassing energy policy that includes renewables, fossil fuels and alternative energy.”
Land Tawney, who leads the Montana-based Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, called Zinke as “a straight shooter” who has established credibility with outdoors enthusiasts in the state.