On Wednesday, the Senate voted 68-31 to confirm Representative Ryan Zinke of Montana as the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The Department of the Interior is responsible for the management and conservation of the vast majority of America’s public lands and natural resources including hundreds of millions of acres of national parks, wildlife refuges and BLM lands across the west.
Rep. Zinke called himself “an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt” during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee January 17. He said that the former president “had it right” when he placed millions of acres of federal lands under federal protection. And he directly linked the availability of those federal lands to the enjoyment of outdoor recreation.
“Today, much of those lands provide Americans the opportunity to hike, fish, camp, recreate and enjoy the great outdoors,” he said. The committee approved Rep. Zinke’s nomination Jan. 31 with bipartisan support by a vote of 16-6.
Several recreational groups applauded the confirmation, including Trout Unlimited and the Outdoor Recreational Industry Roundtable. Secretary Zinke was a co-sponsor of the recently enacted Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016, which requires measurement of the economic impact of outdoor recreation and its role in the U.S. economy.
“For Trout Unlimited members and sportsmen and women across the country, there are few roles as important as Secretary of the Interior for ensuring responsible stewardship of these national treasures and our fishing and hunting heritage,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “From energy development and leasing on BLM lands, to regulation and reclamation of surface mining operations, to management and support of western water infrastructure and distribution networks, the Department of the Interior oversees lands and resources that will determine the future of our nation’s outdoor traditions. Only through careful management will we have robust populations of fish and wildlife and healthy places to hunt and fish for generations to come.”
“The RV industry congratulates Secretary Zinke on his confirmation as Secretary of Interior,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “Secretary Zinke understands the significance of the outdoor recreation economy and RVIA is committed to working in partnership with him to expand recreational access, address infrastructure needs, embrace public private partnerships, modernize federal campgrounds and create more jobs for American workers.”
"We look forward to working with new Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, who has a proven track record of commitment to our public lands and waters. We are excited to work with him and his team to advance outdoor recreation for our country, grow U.S. recreational jobs, and ensure robust public access and treasured experiences for boaters and anglers across the nation,” said Thom Dammrich, President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
“The Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable thanks the Senate for its vote confirming Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior,” said Derrick Crandall, President of the American Recreation Coalition. “We are really looking forward to working with him and his team to advance the outdoor recreation sector, grow jobs in the U.S. and ensure that all Americans have access to healthy, active outdoor fun on their public lands and waters.”
During confirmation hearings, Zinke made it clear he supported keeping public land ownership in the hands of the public, noting he was “absolutely against the transfer or sale of public lands.” Department of the Interior manages about 75 percent of public lands in the country.
Keeping public lands public is crucial, says Corey Fisher, senior policy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project, but sportsmen and women must remain engaged on key issues that impact their hunting and fishing.
“The challenges facing our public lands are much different than they were 110 years ago during Teddy Roosevelt’s Administration, but the need for science-based decisions, citizen involvement, and protecting and restoring fish and wildlife habitat have not changed,” said Fisher. “We remain committed to working with Secretary Zinke to ensure that the management of our public lands is guided by these core principles. We applaud Secretary Zinke on his confirmation as the next Interior Secretary and we look forward to working with he and his agency team in the years to come.”
Secretary Zinke was a co-sponsor of the recently enacted Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016, which requires measurement of the economic impact of outdoor recreation and its role in the U.S. economy.
Secretary Zinke takes over a department that is responsible for 25 percent of the country’s surface area and exercises great influence on outdoor activities throughout the nation. The parks, refuges, trails, rivers and more that the department manages attract hundreds of millions of visits each year. Interior has an annual budget of $13 billion and administers the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Sport Fish and Boating Trust Fund, Pittman-Robertson Program and other key programs providing more than $1 billion annually in grants to assist outdoor recreation experiences. The land and water it manages provide the foundation for much of the $646 billion outdoor recreation industry that directly supports some 6.1 million jobs.