Interior nominee Zinke has called himself a Roosevelt conservationist — we need to hold him to that

Gage Skidmore, flickr

President-elect Trump has offered the Secretary of the Interior post to Rep. Ryan Zinke, who has a mixed record on conservation issues.

The president-elect’s offer comes just days after Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was widely reported as the likely nominee. But while the Trump transition team threw a curveball, our concerns about the future of the agency remain much the same.

“The Wilderness Society and its members will look for opportunities to work with Mr. Zinke whenever possible, but we will work just as hard to hold him accountable and fight tirelessly for conservation and stewardship of our shared heritage.”

More often than not, Rep. Zinke’s voting record has followed the anti-conservation standard set by the rest of President-elect Trump’s cabinet.He has sowed doubt about the well-established science of climate change, fought efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tried to halt long-overdue efforts to reform the federal coal leasing process.

“An Interior Secretary must be a strong defender of our national wilderness areas, parks, forests, refuges and grasslands, and ensure the diverse communities that rely upon them have a say in decisions about their use,” said Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams in a statement. “The Wilderness Society and its members will look for opportunities to work with Mr. Zinke whenever possible, but we will work just as hard to hold him accountable and fight tirelessly for conservation and stewardship of our shared heritage.”

Zinke has called himself a “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist,” and we hope this means we might find some common ground. On the positive side of the ledger, the first-term congressman has opposed some legislative measures that would transfer national public lands to state control and supported robust funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, America’s most important parks conservation program.

Trump administration will be unpredictable; hard work ahead

The seemingly sudden shift from McMorris Rodgers to Zinke underscores that in addition to following a disturbing anti-conservation agenda, the Trump administration will be extremely unpredictable. It will be a major challenge to mobilize and stand up to each new anti-conservation threat over the next four years.

Our work to defend public lands and waters in the Trump era will start with confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate, where we strongly urge our elected officials to get Rep. Zinke and other nominees on the record about whether they will support keeping public lands open for all and other critical issues.

Please join us: Ask your senators to get Rep. Zinke on the record.