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Hearings Begin for Troubling Interior Secretary Nominee


Contact: Haley McKey, hmckey@defenders.org, 202-772-0247 571-480-2113 (cell)

Hearings Begin for Troubling Interior Secretary Nominee

Congress should hold Ryan Zinke Accountable for Protecting our Natural Heritage

WASHINGTON (Jan. 17, 2017) -- The confirmation hearing for Interior Secretary Nominee Ryan Zinke begins today. Zinke, a congressional representative from Montana, has a troubling voting record on public lands and endangered species. Defenders of Wildlife sent a letter to Senators on Jan.13 urging them to use great care in questioning Zinke on his past positions and whether or not he would reassess his natural resource stewardship obligations and assume a broader perspective as Secretary of the Interior that is protective of America's public lands and wildlife. 

Statement from Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark:

“Defenders of Wildlife is deeply concerned regarding the nomination of Rep. Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior.  Rep. Zinke's voting record as a member of the House of Representatives suggests that he poses a serious threat to wildlife conservation, the protection of imperiled species, and management of the nation's spectacular public lands.

“He has said that he does not support giving up federal control of public lands, yet even after his nomination, he returned to Congress and voted to remove a significant barrier to ceding federal control of public lands. He supports the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but has voted in favor of legislation that weakens the Endangered Species Act and jeopardizes imperiled wildlife species such as gray wolves, greater sage-grouse and lesser-prairie chickens.

“Which Zinke are we going to get? Actions speak louder than words, and so far we’re deeply troubled by his voting record. Should he be confirmed as Secretary of the Interior, he will be charged with safeguarding the natural resources Congress entrusts Interior to oversee. We call upon the Senate to rigorously explore Rep. Zinke’s views on these issues, and to ensure that he recognizes his paramount responsibility as steward of the nation’s natural heritage before determining that he is qualified for this critical position.”


·        Rep. Zinke’s legislative record shows that he has repeatedly promoted increased mining, drilling and logging on federal lands throughout the country.

·         Zinke voted with other House Republicans on Jan. 3, 2017, to overturn a rule requiring Congress to account for the value of federal land before transferring it to states or other entities, which would make it easier for lawmakers to giving up federal control of public lands.

·         Rep. Zinke has supported harmful legislation that would severely undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and remove or block protections for hundreds of imperiled species, including  greater sage-grouse, northern long-eared bats and gray wolves. He voted against Rep. Niki Tsongas’ (D-MA) amendment to strike riders attacking these species from H.R. 2822, the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2016.

·         He also co-sponsored H.R. 4739, the “Greater Sage-Grouse Protection and Recovery Act of 2016,” which would overturn a $45 million public planning process to conserve the imperiled greater sage-grouse and prohibit the Fish and Wildlife Service from even considering the species for protection under the Endangered Species Act for at least a decade. It also would have effectively transferred management oversight of 60 million acres of federal lands to the states.

As reported by the Washington Post on Jan. 17: “If confirmed, Zinke also would be the steward of the National Park Service and such vast treasures as Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as the Fish and Wildlife Service and its huge wildlife refuges. He would have oversight of the Endangered Species Act, with a say over what animals are listed, and the National Mall, the capital’s most visited tourist destination.

The secretary guides the Bureau of Land Management’s oversight of the sagebrush sea, an area covering 11 western states, where conservationists and energy companies have fought over projects threatening the health of the greater sage grouse. And the person chosen by the secretary to lead Fish and Wildlife determines which animals get endangered-species protection — and which do not. The agency is engaged in an international fight to protect elephants and rhinoceros from poachers and to curb the sale of artifacts from those animals in the United States.”



Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.