Zinke Clears Senate Hurdle on Way to Confirmation

On Monday night, the Senate cleared the way for a vote on President Donald Trump’s Interior nominee Ryan Zinke with a 67-31 vote to limit debate on his nomination. A final vote on his confirmation could occur as early as today.

LINK (via: The Missoulian)

For the most part, the conservation community has reacted to Zinke’s nomination with a little sigh of relief because Trump didn’t nominate a sociopath who wants to give all of America’s public lands to the oil, gas, and mining industries. Just for some perspective, Sarah Palin was rumored to be on his short list for Interior Secretary. And I think we can all agree that Secretary Mama Grizzly wouldn’t have been a great friend to her fellow grizzlies, anglers, and our public lands and waters.

To Zinke’s credit, at his confirmation hearing he did reject Trump’s claim that climate change is a hoax and credited human activity as a major culprit. Additionally, he’s been a little glimmer of hope amidst the rising red tide that is trying to lay waste to our public lands.

But let’s not pull the wool over our own eyes – Zinke is most definitely not a knight in shining armor who is committed to valiantly fighting on behalf of anglers’ interests. His record on these issues is inconsistent and checkered at best, and that was when he was a Congressman representing trout and public land loving Montana. Fighting an entire Administration that wants to exploit our public lands every way possible is a totally different ballgame, and many Senators are not convinced he is up to the task. For example, Senator Maria Cantwell, the Ranking Member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, had this to say:

“I’m not convinced that Congressman Zinke will be able to moderate the Trump administration’s extreme views on exploiting our public lands. I’m not sure he will be able to stand up to the president and protect the public interest … required to manage our public lands for the benefit of all Americans—not just the oil, gas and mining companies and their commercial interests.”

Despite the concerns of a good chunk of Senators, barring some unforeseen situation Congressman Zinke will become Secretary Zinke this week. When that happens we can all let out a little sigh of relief that the Department of Interior is not being run by someone who has spent a significant chunk of their career trying to destroy the agency they now run (wish we could say the same about the EPA).

However, we cannot afford to relax, give Secretary Zinke a pass, and just assume that he is going to make everything okay. And we cannot afford to become single issue conservationists. The public lands battle is of critical importance, but it will only be a small piece of Secretary Zinke’s role. We need to take a holistic approach to the Interior Department’s work and hold Secretary Zinke’s feet to the fire to ensure that he is fighting for anglers and working to conserve America’s natural heritage for future generations.

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