Montana's second-term congressman, Republican Ryan Zinke, has been offered the post of Interior secretary by President-elect Donald Trump, the website Politico reported Tuesday.
Trump was also said to be considering Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers for the job. The department oversees the management of more than 500 million acres of federal public lands, including close to 400 national parks and federal monuments, not to mention numerous dams and reservoirs.
"I'm always reminded of that old joke that it doesn't matter who's elected president of the United States; it matters in the West when the secretary of interior is appointed", said Mark Trahant, a professor at the University of North Dakota. She wrote on Facebook Tuesday that it was an "honor" to be invited to meet with Trump.
Zinke has prioritized development of oil, gas and other resources on public lands and has advocated for state control of energy development on federal lands, a stance that some environmental groups say threatens national parks.
Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., arrives at Trump Tower for a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump in New York City on Monday. "Mr. Zinke understands that", Tawney said. "We have to be great stewards of this land".
But Zinke has distinguished himself by opposing one federal lands strategy popular among many western conservatives: turning them over to the states. Jon Testor in 2018, Montana Republicans might be forced to scramble to find a new Senate candidate if the former Navy SEAL and House Member becomes Interior secretary. Tester is a top GOP target and Zinke was considered to be a strong challenger to the Democratic incumbent.
Given Montana's extensive coal mining, Zinke has been a staunch supporter of the coal industry, emphasizing that Montana's coal burns cleaner than some other coal deposits that contain more sulfur.
Zinke majored in geology while playing football at the University of OR and later earned an MBA and a Masters in Global Leadership at the University of San Diego's business school.
The Republican will also have the power of dismantling the policies pushed by the Department of the Interior during the Obama administration, which aimed to mitigate the effects of climate change, in order to promote the developmental agenda that Trump promised during the election campaign.