This morning, in a strongly bipartisan 68-31 vote, U.S. Congressman Ryan Zinke was officially given the top job at the Department of the Interior, where he’ll be responsible for the management of public lands, minerals, migratory birds, and endangered species. Hunters, anglers, and the conservation community look forward to working with Zinke to support habitat conservation, sportsmen’s access, and increased public involvement in the management of America’s public lands.
“More than ever before, we need to see the Secretary of the Interior act with conviction as the nation’s top champion of public lands and foremost arbiter of balanced management for fish and wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation,” says K.C. Walsh, chairman of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Corporate Council and president of Simms Fishing Products in Bozeman, Mont. “The hunting and fishing community is looking forward to working with Secretary Zinke and his staff to improve collaborative conservation of natural resources that are the envy of all the world.”
From his earliest days in office, Zinke will be faced with charting a path forward for the Bureau of Land Management’s revised land-use planning process, a rule that is supported by the sporting community but faces an uncertain future. The House voted three weeks ago to block the BLM’s new Planning 2.0 rule, which creates greater agency transparency and gives the public three additional opportunities to weigh in on land-use plans.
If the Senate passes a similar resolution under the Congressional Review Act, it would likely prevent the BLM from ever issuing a rule with substantially similar benefits. Sportsmen are encouraging Congress to take a step back and instead let Zinke lead on making further changes to the rule, while retaining its many benefits.
“We encourage Secretary Zinke to simply solve problems constructively: Bring together diverse stakeholders, and find common ground for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and our sporting traditions,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “Sportsmen and women stand ready and willing to help shape a positive future for our public lands. We’re just asking that remaining concerns with the BLM Planning rule are addressed through a process that also keeps all of the improvements made to public lands management.”
During his tenure, Zinke will also oversee the implementation of federal conservation plans created to keep the greater sage grouse off the endangered species list.
“We’re hopeful that having a true sportsman in this role will be positive for sage grouse as well as the other iconic game species dependent upon conservation of sagebrush habitat, like mule deer and pronghorn antelope,” says Miles Moretti, president of the Mule Deer Foundation. “Hunters, ranchers, and other stakeholders are ready to work with Sec. Zinke to safeguard many traditional uses of this landscape through collaborative conservation.”
The TRCP and other sportsmen’s groups came out in support of Zinke’s nomination in December 2016, based mainly on his opposition to privatizing or transferring federal public lands to individual states. In June 2016, Zinke was the only member of the House Natural Resources Committee to cross party lines and vote against a bill that would allow states to acquire up to two million acres of national forest lands to be managed primarily for timber production, locking Americans out of our public lands. Later this summer, he resigned as a delegate to the Republican nominating convention because of the party’s position on the transfer of federal public lands to the states. Zinke is also in favor of full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses revenues from offshore oil and gas production to conserve important natural resources and open public access.
More than 50,000 Americans have signed a petition opposing the sale or transfer of our public lands. Learn more here.
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